June 26, 2003
In spite of numerous reports that secular Jews are leaving Jerusalem in droves, Israel's capital held its second annual Gay Pride parade on June 20.
About 2,000 people marched and danced through the streets of Jerusalem, many carrying rainbow flags and dressed in drag -- or nothing at all.
The march was smaller than last year's, which drew about 4,000 people. (This year, the march had been rescheduled from a week earlier due to a June 11 terrorist attack that claimed the life of one parade organizer.)
Gay Pride marches take place in more than 20 countries, drawing over 20 million participants. Israel has a progressive record of supporting gay rights, but pride celebrations are relatively new to the country. Tel Aviv was the first to establish a pride march in 1998, which typically draws tens of thousands. Many groups protested the Jerusalem march, saying it undermined the Eternal City's "Jewish character."
Newly elected Orthodox Mayor Uri Luolianski approved the march and ignored criticism for the decision.
"Everyone has his own parade," he said. "I myself will be marching in another parade."