J'lem Mayor Shuns Gay Parade

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat will not attend Thursday's 'Gay Pride' march, saying the reasons are "my own."

Event organizer Saar Netanel, the only open homosexual to have served on the city council, was disappointed with Barkat's announcement.

"The [Gay] Pride Parade in Tel Aviv is funded by the municipality and the mayor takes an active part in it and addresses the community, while in Jerusalem the mayor does not do this and is to trying to please the [gay] community as he is the ultra-Orthodox public," Netanel said.

In contrast to past years, the ultra-Orthodox community has decided not to demonstrate against the parade to avoid providing the movement with additional press coverage.

"What do we want to give a few people publicity for?" one ultra-Orthodox man asked. "We made our point two years ago by getting the international gay parade cancelled in Jerusalem," he said.

The march, sponsored by the gay and lesbian community's Open House, fosters a degree of unity among Jewish, Christian and Muslim residents who believe the event defiles Jerusalem.

A recent poll revealed that two-thirds of Jerusalemites oppose holding such an event in the city.

Some 1,500 police will be deployed along the four city blocks from Liberty Bell Park, where the march begins at 5:00 p.m., up King David Street to Independence Park, where participants will hold a rally.

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