Attendees traveled to Jerusalem from across the globe, despite strong opposition and threats of violence from Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious conservatives. The escalating situation in the Lebanon also created concern. The threats of violence from religious extremists proved to be unfounded; only a handful of antigay protesters made an appearance.
This release contains a summary of major WorldPride events as they happened last week. In addition, there are links to WorldPride weblogs and video coverage of selected events.
August 6: International LGBT Health Conference. 200 healthcare providers and community members participated in this event, the first of its kind in the Middle East.
The conference’s main panel, which included Jay Laudato of the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York and Todd Ross, Director of Strategy Outreach to the Minister of Health and Long Term Care for the Province of Ontario, Canada, explored methods to improve the healthcare services provided to the LGBT community in Israel. The panel also presented a recent survey about medical habits among the local LGBT community. Special emphasis was placed on the necessity of rebuilding a well-functioning network of healthcare professionals and members of the community.
August 7: Youth Day. Dozens of LGBT teens attended a special meeting of the Knesset’s (Israeli parliament) Committee on Rights of the Child. The meeting, initiated by the Jerusalem Open House and the Hoshen Center for Education and Information, was chaired by MK Shelly Yachimovich (Labor), the committee’s chairperson. Other prominent political figures were in attendance, including MK Ran Cohen (Meretz), MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), Dr. Yitzhak Kadman (Executive Director of the National Council for the Child), Yael Dayan (Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv and former MK), and officials from the Israeli Ministry of Education. Youth representatives discussed the lack of awareness and support in their schools; this situation prevents many LGBT teens from being open about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Youth also spoke about the consequences of being alienated from their families after coming out.
August 7-8: Human Rights Day. Saar Ran Netanei, the openly gay member of the Jerusalem City Council, invited participants to City Hall for opening remarks from numerous activists. “As an LGBT rights movement, we cannot just look at the rights of one group and focus on our single issue,” said Julie Dorf, North American Co-Chair of WorldPride. “As activists we must internalize the idea that LGBT human rights are significant. They cannot be left behind until ‘more important’ human rights issues are resolved. But at the same time, LGBT human rights issues here must be understood in the context of the occupation.” Other notable speakers included Louis-Georges Tin, founder of International Day against Homophobia, and Fatima Amarshi, Executive Director of Pride Toronto. Later, activists embarked on study tours to a variety of social change organizations in Jerusalem.
August 8-9: Multifath Convocation. The convocation’s title was “Reclaiming Our Faith and Our Heritage.” Speakers included Professor Chai Feldblum, Director of Georgetown University’s Federal Legislation Clinic and Moral Values Project; Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum; WorldPride Co-chair and Senior Rabbi of New York’s Congregation Beth Simchat Torah; Bishop Zachary Jones, Pastor of Unity Fellowship of Christ Church in Brooklyn and a prominent leader in the LGBT African American community; Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Senior Pastor of MCC of New York; and Irshad Manji, author of The Trouble With Islam Today. Members of the community and faith leaders from around the world explored the ways in which religious texts and holy scripts of the monotheist religions seek equality and call for the respect of human rights. “The Multifaith Convocation was a huge success,” said Rabbi Kleinbaum. “We embraced the complexities of our faiths. We took a strong stand against those who try to deny LGBT people a space in the sphere of faith. The dialogue shaped here will generate a substantial change of outlook on this important issue.”
August 9: Solidarity Rally at the Jerusalem Separation Wall. 100 people attended the rally, held at the wall separating certain Palestinian neighborhoods from the rest of Jerusalem. Participants pledged their solidarity with the Palestinian LGBT community, especially those living in parts of the city blocked by the wall. “This rally is a symbolic event, “said Hagai El-Ad, JOH Executive Director. “It sends a message of hope that better times are ahead, when Palestinian members of the LGBT community from East Jerusalem and neighboring towns such as Ramallah and Bethlehem will be able to be a freely take part in all JOH activities”.
August 10: Protest for Tolerance. Hundreds of people rallied for gay rights in Jerusalem’s Liberty Bell Park. Participants of the peaceful event, LGBT community members and their allies, spoke out against anti-gay incitement and hate campaigns currently targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Jerusalem. The rally was held at same time and date originally intended for WorldPride’s Pride March. The march became an emblem of the political battle between local gay rights advocates and the mayor of Jerusalem. Despite winning several court victories against the city, JOH was forced to postpone the march days before WorldPride began, when Jerusalem police stated that forces would not be able to secure the event. At the Protest, participants called for equality for LGBT people, and vowed to continue the struggle for a pluralistic, tolerant and egalitarian society - in Jerusalem in particular, in Israel, and around the world.
August 11: Shabbat Service. More than 200 people attended the service, lead by Rabbis Sharon Kleinbaum and Ayelet Cohen and Cantor David Berger, of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in NYC. The evening included a special Sh’Hecheyanu prayer dedicated to the WorldPride events, and a Torah reading by JOH board members Noa Sattath and Yizhak Shnoor.
Ongoing activities. WorldPride attendees were treated to numerous cultural activities during their time in Jerusalem. The LGBT film festival featured over 19 pictures covering a variety of topics related to sexual orientation and gender. Notable films included Saint of 9/11, which tells the story of Father Mychal Judge, Chaplain for FDNY, and Hineini (Hebrew for “Here I am”) which chronicles one student´s courageous fight to establish a gay-straight alliance at a Jewish high school in the Boston area. Drag performances, art exhibitions and musical presentations entertained many.
Video. Videos from the International LGBT Health Conference and the Multifaith Convocation are available here: target=”_blank”>http://www.worldpride.net/index.php?id=1202
Weblogs. Many writers from various vocations and places have written extensively about WorldPride in special weblogs. For a full listing of weblogs, see:
Selected attendees are available to speak with the press regarding their experiences at WorldPride, their experiences in Israel during the current conflict, and their thoughts regarding the future of the international LGBT movement.
Congregation Beth Simchat Torah is New York City’s synagogue for the New York metropolitan area’s 200,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Jews, as well as our families and friends. Founded in 1973, and under the leadership of Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum since 1992, CBST has become the largest GLBT synagogue in the world and arguably one of the most influential. CBST is an important voice in Judaism; in the worldwide discourse on the nature of religious community; and in the movement to secure basic civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the United States and throughout the world.
Jerusalem WorldPride is organized by Israel’s leading LGBT rights organization, the (JOH). Founded in 1997. Jerusalem Open House leads pride in Jerusalem since 2002. JOH is unique by being a truly diverse Jerusalemite community-based social change non-profit, bringing together Israelis and Palestinians, Christians Moslems and Jews, religious and secular.
Cathy Renna, Renna Communications (917) 757-6123
Syd Peterson, Renna Communications (917) 621-6411 firstname.lastname@example.org