While Israel's homosexual community prepares itself for Pride Month – to begin on Friday with Tel Aviv's 10th annual Pride Parade – a moment of international pride was bestowed upon the community, especially in Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance won a special prize awarded to gay organizations worldwide from the Brazilian APO LGBT organization, which is world-renowned for its Sao Paolo pride parade.
Amit Lev, spokesman for the Jerusalem Open House (JOH), told Ynet that the prize had been awarded to his organization during last week's gay pride week in Sao Paolo. Jerry Levinson, one of the founders of the JOH, accepted the prize and participated in the parade as a guest of honor.
Levinson commended the event, saying, "The Brazilian organization is made up of 20 volunteers who, despite their other obligations, managed to arrange a parade that, apart from being the largest pride parade in the world, was also the largest parade in general."
Three million people and 22 floats participated in the Sao Paolo parade. The guests of honor stood on the first float along with the city's mayor and the parade's host (or hostess) – a local drag queen.
The special prize is awarded annually to gay pride organizations that operate despite difficult social surroundings or government opposition. A Moscow organization was also awarded such a prize this year, in honor of the gay parades recently held in the city among government and municipality protest.
World's largest pride parade. (Photo: JOH)
The Moscow organization attempted to hold a gay pride parade on Sunday, but local police prevented the activity by blocking streets and arresting four of the activists. Despite the predicament, the organization succeeded in holding a small event near the statue of famous musical composer Tchaikovsky.
"The two organizations were not a random choice," Levinson said. "Similarly to the organizers in Israel,
the organizers of the parade in Sao Paolo wanted to reach back to original purpose of the event, which is to demonstrate for rights and equality everywhere."
Meanwhile, Tel Aviv's residents were not all expressing pride. During the past few weeks, in preparation for the annual Pride Parade, colorful flags were hung all over the city. But on Tuesday some of the flags in the southern part of the city were surprisingly removed.
Itai Pinkas, a gay community leader and a Tel Aviv city council member, said he thought "most of Tel Aviv's residents resent the fact that the city's south has become sterile territory, off limits to human rights. I guess that in southern Tel Aviv the ultra-Orthodox rule. The removal of the flags is a declaration that the south is disconnected from the city.
"I know many gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender that live in the southern neighborhoods. The flags made them very happy, and for the first time they felt they belonged there. The removal of the flags is like spitting in their faces."
Representatives of the ultra-Orthodox communities refused to comment on the issue. Tel Aviv Municipality responded by stating that "the Pride Parade flags were hung throughout the city. On Kibbutz Galuyot Street the flags upset the residents, and out of sensitivity for their needs they were removed."
Tal Rabinovsky contributed to this report