While homosexuality in the public arena continues to be a contentious issue in Israel, especially in the holy city of Jerusalem, the 12th annual Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance went off, relatively, without a hitch on Thursday, as thousands of gay, bisexual and transgender men and women proudly walked from Independence Park to the Wohl Rose Park across from the Knesset, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The Israeli police were on high alert from the get-go of the event, with helicopters monitoring from the sky as well as extra safety measures that were taken by police on the ground to ensure the well-being of everyone involved.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, who was helping oversee officers at the procession, said “Approximately 2,500 people are taking part in the parade and police have secured the area, and we’re escorting all the people taking part.”. “Special patrol units, border patrol units and undercover units are watching over the crowd,” he added.
Despite the added security, police had reported that three individuals had been arrested by 8:00 p.m., including a haredi man who lobbed a stink-bomb into the crowd and two women who tried to incite the crowd with insulting signs and costumes. “Undercover officers and patrol units arrested them, and there were no injuries,” Rosenfeld said.
He added that police have also been monitoring several anti-gay demonstrations in the capital. “At the same time we’re dealing with counter-demonstrations taking place in haredi neighborhoods, where there is a strong police presence,” he said.
Despite the ongoing tension between the secular and ultra-orthodox communities in Jerusalem, many participants in the parade expressed a feeling of safety and acceptance during this year’s march. Tal, a journalist who requested her last name not be published, told the Post that she thinks conditions have improved for homosexuals in Jerusalem over the years. “I pretty much feel accepted [in Jerusalem],” she said. “Lately, as the years pass, it has gotten more so than in previous years.I’m not sure how it happened, but it’s how I feel.”
While homosexuality is against Biblical and Jewish law, there have been many movements around the world as of late to help Jews who are openly gay who still want to be involved in their Jewish communities to integrate and adapt since coming out to their friends, families and communities.
The debate on homosexuality and religion is far from over, and it will certainly rage on in Judaism in general, and Jerusalem in specific, the relatively peaceful march and counter-march shows that the people of the Land of Israel, for the most part, value the Jewish virtue of not making a Chilul Hashem, or a disgrace of G-d’s name, very seriously as well. It also cements the undeniable fact that Israel remains the only true democracy in the Middle East.