Jerusalem’s ultra-religious Jewish community orchestrated demonstrations against yesterday’s third annual “Gay Pride” parade, while several threats were reportedly made against politicians who participated in the event.

The parade, which began at 6:30 p.m., marched from the popular Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall outside the Old City to Jerusalem’s Liberty Bell Park, where the celebration concluded with a large party. Israeli television showed hundreds of marchers waving rainbow flags, including a few men dressed in drag and others wearing very colorful outfits, parading up the street amongst tight security. Approximately 3,000 people attended the event.

Several small counter protests were reportedly held outside the vicinity of the parade, and at least two people were arrested for throwing eggs at the crowd.

A group of ultra-Orthodox Jews held demonstrations against the parade last week, and signs were placed in Jerusalem condemning the march as blasphemy, saying it drives holiness out of the city.

Jerusalem Councilman Saar Netanel, who helped organize the parade, says he received a telephone threat to his life, and an official in the Jerusalem mayor’s office told WND Mayor Uri Lupolianski was asked to increase his security detail after intelligence information indicated certain factions in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community planned to attack him.

Elected in June 2003, Lupolianski is the first ultra-Orthodox Jew to serve as mayor of Jerusalem, and some ultra-Orthodox groups are particularly upset that he allowed a homosexual event to be staged in the holy city.

In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Maariv before last year’s parade, Lupolianski called the event an “abomination,” but he refrained this year from making any negative comments.

Lupolianski was also criticized by organizers of the event.

Hagai Elad, director of Jerusalem’s Open House, the organization that planned the parade, sent a letter to Lupolianski charging the city attempted to withhold approval for the event and failed to post “Gay Pride” banners along the route of the parade, as it had promised.

Elad also wrote the city has not yet paid close to $100,000 it owes in funding for last year’s parade.

Although religious opposition to homosexuality is considered dominant in Jerusalem, polls show Israelis living in other cities, particularly Tel Aviv, are more accepting of the practice. Israel does not have anti-sodomy laws, and several Israeli courts have recognized rights of homosexual couples.

According to a report in Israel Insider, one leading ultra-Orthodox rabbi said in protesting the event that as a punishment, homosexuals would “in their next reincarnation come back as rabbits and bunnies.”

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