A large police force was dispatched Monday evening to a Jerusalem café, after patrons that had gathered to view a video on gay pride received death threats from local residents.
Squad cars, riot police and an unmarked police car were sent to Hasalon café in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Nahlaot, in order to restore public order at a screening of a film that addresses the difficulties encountered in organizing the city's gay pride march. The call was prompted after several neighbors threatened the 40 or so patrons, saying, "We will burn you" and "You deviants are making Jerusalem impure."
The screening was arranged by Jerusalem Open House, a gay and lesbian community center, ahead of the gay pride march that is to be held next Thursday in the city, explained Noa Sattath, former executive director of Open House. Eitan Schechtman, Open House chairman, told Haaretz: "About three-quarters of an hour after the film started, a woman began to shout from the porch upstairs, 'Don't show a film about homos here,' and then added a string of curses." Schechtman said that shortly afterward, a man joined in, who also shouted and cursed at them. When he realized that the viewers were not dispersing, he decided to come down, holding a big stick in his hand, and began waving it around at the people there.
Sattath added that after a while he was joined by additional neighbors. "They started yelling, 'You are deviates, you are homos, you are making Jerusalem unclean.' He said, 'We are going to burn you, we will kill you,'" related Sattath. According to other eyewitnesses, the man also said, "There is going to be murder here tonight."
The film screening was stopped a few times, as a result of the threats. According to Schechtman, when the man with the stick came down, other neighbors who were with him attempted to calm him down and prevent him from striking blows at the viewers. Schechtman reports that at this stage the man went back up to his apartment and threw objects from his porch, all the while continuing to curse. Not long afterward, the police arrived on the scene in full force, and detained the man for interrogation.
Elinor Sidi, the current executive director of Jerusalem Open House, said, "This episode only underscores the extent to which the march is more relevant than ever. This year, we are marking the first decade of the march. Despite the changes and the progress that have been made in the city over the past decade, the event before us emphasizes just how long of a road still lies ahead." Sidi stressed that the Open House's struggle is a non-violent struggle. "It is legitimate to not like the community; it is not legitimate to threaten violence."
"It is sad to see that the same pictures have remained on the same level, of something that is the most cultural event possible," said Nitzan Giladi, the director of the film, which was made in 2008. "The goal here is not to mock, but to build a bridge. It's a shame that these sorts of things still exist; this is what is sad about this city."
The pride march in Jerusalem has become a controversial event that has been broadly criticized and has even attracted violence. In 2005, a 30-year-old resident of Kiryat Sefer (an ultra-Orthodox town outside Jerusalem) stabbed three participants during the march, causing them light injuries. One of the victims related that he'd come to the march with his daughter, who was wearing a costume, and as they were marching he noticed a Haredi man running toward them. First he attacked her and then him.
The following year, the Vatican condemned the pride march in Jerusalem, and called on Israel Police to ban it. In a letter sent to then-Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the Vatican stated that the march would hurt the feelings of Jews, Christian and Muslims living in Jerusalem.
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