Gay parade and Sabbath parking stir Jerusalem tension
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A gay pride parade on Thursday and the planned opening of a municipal parking lot on the Jewish sabbath will test the delicate balance between Jewish religious and secular lifestyles in Jerusalem.
Organisers of the annual parade, which has touched off anti-gay protests by ultra-Orthodox Jews in the holy city in the past, said they did not expect violence at this year's event.
But police said they were deploying some 1,500 officers -- albeit far fewer than in recent years -- along the route, which avoids neighbourhoods where traditionally black-garbed ultra-Orthodox Jews live.
Many devout Jews, Muslims and Christians view homosexuality as an abomination. In 2005, an ultra-Orthodox Jew stabbed and wounded three participants in the gay march. He is serving a 12-year sentence.
Amit Lev, a spokesman for the gay rights group behind the parade, said organisers had been negotiating with ultra-Orthodox leaders in Jerusalem after "long years of silence" between the two communities.
"We've agreed that violence doesn't serve any of us or any of our goals," he said.
But tensions have been stirred in the city over plans by Jerusalem's Israeli mayor, Nir Barkat, to reopen a free public parking lot on Saturday, a move that could draw more traffic into the city on the Jewish sabbath.
Jewish religious law bans travel on the sabbath, and Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox community has negotiated with city authorities arrangements that limit or ban traffic in their neighbourhoods on Saturdays.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews held stone-throwing protests three weeks ago when the municipal parking lot was last opened on a Saturday and authorities fear a repeat of the violence this weekend.
(Additional reporting by Erika Solomon, Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Editing by Samia Nakhoul)
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