Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

WorldPride Holy Land: The Conflict-Heavy Center Point of Three World Religions Is Gearing Up for the Second Global Pride Festival

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

WorldPride Holy Land: The Conflict-Heavy Center Point of Three World Religions Is Gearing Up for the Second Global Pride Festival

Article excerpt

Although Israel is a fixture in the world's news headlines, thousands of newsmakers of a very different kind will be among the throngs of locals and tourists in Jerusalem celebrating the second-ever WorldPride event from August 6 to 12--a six-day festival and parade honoring gay pride and pride festivals from across the globe.

Like the first WorldPride held in Rome in 2000, the Jerusalem event is drawing both endorsement and outrage from religious and gay leaders worldwide. Unsurprisingly, each camp is invoking the spirit of Jerusalem itself to promote their cause, claiming that the city--holy to Muslims, Christians, and Jews--symbolizes everything WorldPride either celebrates or sullies. "Especially at this moment of conflict and potential violence," explains Or Goren, WorldPride media coordinator, "this is exactly the type of bright spot Jerusalem and Israel need."

Not so, say local religious leaders like Shlomo Amar, Israel's Sephardic chief rabbi, and Abdel Aziz Bukhari, a Sufi sheikh, who have come together in an unprecedented display of ecumenical solidarity, to oppose the event. WorldPride is creating "a deep and terrible sorrow that is unbearable," decried Amar during a late-March anti-WorldPride news conference in Jerusalem hosted by senior Jewish, Muslim, and Christian religious officials. "We can't permit anybody to come and make the Holy City dirty," noted Bukhari, before adding, "This is very ugly and very nasty to have these people come to Jerusalem." Both clerics were loudly echoed by colleagues in the United States, as well, where evangelical pastor Reverend Leo Giovinetti of San Diego and Brooklyn, N.Y.'s Rabbi Yehuda Levin of the Rabbinical Alliance of America are actively working to have WorldPride canceled. "This is not the homo land," exhorted Rabbi Levin earlier this year. "This is the Holy Land."

A similar anti-WorldPride sentiment cast a shadow over Rome's 2000 event, culminating in the late Pope John Paul II's declaring from a balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square that it was an "offense to the Christian values of a city that is so dear to the hearts of Catholics across the world." Nonetheless, WorldPride drew an estimated 250,000 celebrants to the Italian capital, and while the Jerusalem version has less lofty ambitions, it too hopes to lure thousands to a country far removed from the typical tourism map since the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000. So far, gay groups ranging from Evangelical California Christians to New York synagogues delegations have confirmed their attendance this summer. …

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