Gay Pride Returns to Jerusalem

March planned in solidarity with other social demonstrations currently sweeping Israel, most notably the housing protests; over 1,000 police and volunteers to provide security in light of past violence.

Israel’s LGBT community will march Thursday in Jerusalem’s annual Gay Pride Parade, an event that in past years has sparked great tension and violent clashes in the city.

 This year’s march takes place in a show of solidarity between Israel’s movement for LGBT rights and the wider social struggles currently sweeping the nation, principally the housing protests.

Jerusalem gay pride parade

Violence at the Jerusalem Gay Pride reached its apex in 2005, when an ultra-Orthodox man attacked some of the marchers with a knife, wounding one of them.

In the past four years, in the wake of a decision by rabbis of the ultra-Orthodox community to ignore the march, Jerusalem Gay Pride has taken place without incident.

Despite this, Jerusalem police are preparing a large security contingent for this year’s event. Over one thousand police officers, border police and volunteers will protect marchers as they make their way through Jerusalem.

“Any attempt by any person to disrupt the order will be dealt with in a decisive and tough manner,” a police statement said. So far, opponents of this year’s march seem to be satisfied with a virtual protest via Facebook and online petitions.

Jerusalem Open House, which organizes the Gay Pride march every year, has decided to the march will join the battle cry of the housing protests. “We will walk with the pride flag in one hand and the flags of the rest of the social protests in the other,” said Yonatan Gher, director of Jerusalem Open House.

A tent city has been set up for over a week in Gan Ha'atzmaut in Jerusalem, the site of the starting point of the Gay Pride. This protest site has not joined the main tent city in Jerusalem, which pitched up in a park in the Horse Park in central Jerusalem.

One of the tent cities will even address the crowds at the outset of the march. 2011’s Gay Pride will take a more political course than those of previous years, with marchers making their way from Independence Park towards the Knesset.

The organizers of Jerusalem’s Gay Pride stress the difference between this march and Tel Aviv’s annual Gay Pride, which is seen as a far more jovial affair.

Jerusalem Gay Pride is more focused on the struggle for LGBT rights, and on human rights in general. The date of the march is also significant: it is the second year anniversary of the Tel Aviv gay youth center shooting in which two died and many more were injured.

Main roads in Jerusalem will be closed to traffic for the duration of the march, which starts at 4 P.M. on Thursday. The organizers expect a couple of thousand marchers to participate, and hope that the wave of protests currently sweeping Israel will strengthen the LGBT community’s struggle.