Jerusalem -- Boycotted by gay left ists and condemned by religious conservatives, World Pride began tentatively in the Holy City on August 6.
If the celebration's postponement last year due to a firebombing and a stabbing wasn't enough to unnerve prospective participants, there was always the current war and Hezbollah's missiles.
So it's a tiny contingent of about 350 who actually show. More than half are Israelis, and there's a huge group of Jewish Americans, here it seems to stand with Israel during its time of need, plus a sizable showing of Canucks who, unlike the Yanks, aren't afraid to wave their flag in a foreign country.
While it's inspiring to see the rainbow colours of conference-goers mixing with the ultra-orthodox black of religious Jews on the sidewalks of the Holy City, queer activists would be wise to reflect long and hard before they plan a sequel.
For all the heroic efforts of the beleaguered Jerusalem LGBT community, this World Pride proves what queer activists have so long denied: there is a moral hierarchy of concerns, and a movement pays a big price when it fails to make meaningful reference to the larger political tragedy unfolding around it.
The original intention of this World Pride was to draw special attention to the plight of Palestinian gays and lesbians, who face violence at home and, now, with the construction of the wall between their territory and Israel, are prevented from enjoying the fruits of gay life on the other side.
But at the opening ceremonies for the human rights portion of World Pride, there is little mention of the P-word. Fatima Amarshi of Pride Toronto, which has sent nine people to Jerusalem, uses her remarks not to link the struggles of tolerance, but to extol the virtues of Canada.
"The place that we dream about is a place that we almost have," she says. "We come from a city where we have achieved queer rights," she says.
The O Canada cheer continues the next day at the opening of the multi-faith portion of World Pride, where Toronto's Irshad Manji, author of the bestselling The Trouble With Islam Today, begins by saying she's glad "to live in an open society like Canada, like the United States, like Israel."
The celebratory bubble is burst only by the uncomfortable truth-telling of Reverend Pat Baumgardner of Metropolitan Community Church of New York. "So what if queers can serve in the [Israeli] army, when they're killing people 150 kilometres from here?" she asks, a question met with pointed silence from the audience.
In a nod to the calamities around them, 25 participants pile on a bus one morning to make an obligatory visit to the separation wall, supposedly to express gay solidarity with queer Muslims who can't be with them. But it's a surreal stop missing the gravitas due the situation with cheery posing for pictures against the controversial barrier.
The disconnect between World Pride rhetoric and what the moment requires is not lost on Julie Dorf, one of the North American World chairs and a co-founder of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, an organization that could not bring itself to support this event.
On the one hand, she's heartened by the new connections that Jerusalem Open House, the gay centre that organized World Pride, has forged with secular and straight Jews. The New Israel Fund and its civil society arm, Shatil, for example, are handling some of the human rights programming.
But Dorf laments that the narrative of World Pride does not include references to the abuses taking place mere kilometres from the fest.
Instead, organizers try to remain agnostic on questions like the morality and legality of the separation wall, claiming they are not taking a specific position but that participants are welcome to express their views.
But, says Dorf, "World Pride messaging did not please anyone," neither Israel loyalists whom organizers tried not to offend nor pro-Palestinian supporters who saw the event as a propaganda opportunity for the rights-abusing Israeli state. "We got it from both sides," she says.
A gay anarcho group called Queeruption crashes the last event of the meet, Thursday afternoon, the "rally against homophobia," a scaled-down version of a closing parade cancelled for security reasons.
"You should be offended to see your flag flying with the Israeli flag,"a self-described anarchist named Menachem Cohen tells me as an interfaith group sings We Shall Overcome. "Twenty minutes from here people are dying because of the Israeli army."
Shortly after, the black-shirted anarchos refuse a police order to tone down their dissident chanting. They're incensed that the gathering isn't protesting the occupation and the invasion of Lebanon.
Punches are exchanged, and suddenly a sea of black shirts accessorized with pink ribbons covers the brown grass with an impromptu sit-in.
Head World Pride organizer Hagai El-Ad, fearing counter-protests by the same religious extremists who had tried to shut the party down, hastily hauls out his megaphone, urging Pride participants to depart.
The event is over.
At Shushan, the city's only gay bar, a local tells me over his beer that World Pride doesn't make any difference to him. He's feeling a little down anyway, since he learned just a couple of hours ago that his brother has been called up for military duty in Lebanon.
Conceived in controversy, World Pride, the Jerusalem edition, comes to an end, and only the divisions remain between Jew and Arab, and between the queer movement and itself.