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TBC Staff

October 22, 2003 © 2003 

A massive, international "gay pride" event previously held in Rome, at the doorstep of the Vatican, has chosen Jerusalem as its next venue. 

The InterPride celebration attracted about a quarter of a million homosexuals in 2000 and expects to host the largest "gay" event ever in the Holy Land in 2005, organizers say, according to the website 

"An event of this magnitude has never occurred before anywhere in Israel," said Jerry Levinson, executive director of Jerusalem's Gay and Lesbian Center, Hagai El-Ad. 

Levinson said his center, which will serve as the host organization, has its work cut out for itself because Jerusalem is intensely religious for Jews, Muslims and Christians. 

Fierce opposition from religious organizations kept away "gay pride" celebrations of any kind in Jerusalem until last year. 

Last year, an estimated 2,000 to 4,000 Israeli homosexuals marched through Jerusalem for the first time under heavy police protection and protest from ultra-Orthodox Jews and others. 

The event began just hours before the start of the Jewish Sabbath. 

The Orthodox Jewish groups condemned the June 7, 2002, march as blasphemy, warning it would drive holiness out of the city, the BBC reported. 

Organizers called it a march against hatred fueled by intense religious opposition. 

"We did not believe the day would come when this could happen in Jerusalem," one organizer declared to the crowd, according to the BBC. 

But Jerusalem's Deputy Mayor Rabbi Haim Miller denounced the participants. 

"I think they have a problem, they have a perversion, it is a disgrace," he said. "Before, you would be ashamed of this. A person who had this problem used to hide in the street. Today they want to go out into the city streets and call it 'pride.'" 

The organizers of World Pride Rome 2000 said they intentionally planned the event to coincide with the Roman Catholic Church's Jubilee Year, which drew millions of pilgrims to commemorate 2,000 years since the birth of Jesus Christ. 

On its website, the International Lesbian and Gay Association urged activists to "Go to Rome, and show the Vatican" lesbian, 'gay,' bisexual and transgendered people "have as much right to freedom of association and expression in Rome as the Pope!"