Thursday, June 21, 2007

Gay Pride Parade

Today was the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem. They started closing city streets first thing in the morning to prepare and getting around town was not easy given the closures. The ultra-Orthodox have been protesting for days and there were some fears of violence at the Parade.

We got to the area about 5pm, and could tell that there were thousands of people up and across the street for what looked like blocks. From where we parked, about six blocks away, up until where we finally were at the end of the parade route, we saw hundreds of police. And when we finally got to the end of the parade route, we were held back by barricades and more police. There were all sorts of different law enforcement types - regular police, military police, and some guys dressed in all black on black motorcycles. I would have thought 'ninja' if I didn't know better. Really, there was a tremendous amount of weaponry there. I had no concern for my safety, but I was wondering what would happen if there was a crime committed in any other part of the city!

As I mentioned, the streets were all blocked off. We were behind some simple barricades, but up the block, there were two city buses being used to block the streets. We think there were some Haredim behind them protesting. Right next to us - literally 2 feet away - about 8 religious men started chanting horrible things and of course, all the of the television cameras came running. I mean really, it was 8 people, max. And then the religious women started blowing plastic whistles. They were SO annoying, but at least they weren't shouting hateful things.

Other than these folks, it was a really nice crowd. Lots of rainbow balloons, flags, and stickers. And there was a great banner over the entrance to one of the parks announcing the parade that had a skyline of Jerusalem cut out of a rainbow, and a pink lion (the lion is the symbol of Jerusalem). I saw a few people I knew and figured out that I wasn't going to get close to some of the other people I knew were there.

There was supposed to be a big "after-party" in the park, but it was moved to a site a mile or so down the road. We never made it there. By the time we made our way back to the car, drove home and walked back down toward town, it was already getting late....

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