- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 31, 2005

JERUSALEM — Israel’s chief rabbis joined Christian and Muslim clerics in a rare alliance to protest plans to hold an international homosexual festival in Jerusalem this summer.

The 10-day WorldPride festival, last held in Rome in 2000, is to include street parties, workshops and a festival of homosexual-themed films. Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish mayor, Uri Lupolianski, says he is powerless to interfere, as public events are licensed by the police, not city hall.

Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said yesterday that police had received a number of requests not to issue a permit for the festival, but had not yet made a decision.

At a press conference Wednesday, Rabbi Yona Metzger, one of the chief rabbis, pleaded with the festival’s organizers to take it elsewhere.

“Please do not damage the holiness of Jerusalem,” he said.

Mr. Metzger was joined at the press conference by Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah and other Christian and Muslim officials in demanding the event be canceled.

Opposition to the event has forged some unusual alliances. Last month, evangelical Christians and rabbis from the United States joined forces with ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jews to warn that holding the festival in Jerusalem could provoke divine retribution along the lines of the biblical story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Muslim cleric Abdel-Salem Menasra repeated that warning on Wednesday.

“God destroyed those cities and everyone in them,” he said. “I’m warning everybody, God will destroy Jerusalem together with the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims.”

Some participants at the press conference described homosexuals as lower than animals, others described their lifestyle as unnatural and unhealthy.

Jerusalem Open House Director Hagai El-Ad, one of the festival organizers, said the tone of the remarks made him more determined than ever to press ahead with plans for the Aug. 18-28 event.

“If anyone had any hesitation about how important this event is then after the unfortunate remarks made at Wednesday’s press conference I think no such questions remain,” he said. “It’s important that one of the first signs of interfaith dialogue we have encountered here in Jerusalem takes place around such a negative message.”

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