First Gay Pride Parade to Be Held in Be’er Sheva on Thursday

This year's event received funding from the municipality after it was cancelled last year over the route of the march

Supporters of the LGBT community protesting outside the Be'er Sheva Municipality over the decision to cancel the Pride Parade, July 14, 2016.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Be’er Sheva’s first gay pride parade will be going ahead on Thursday after the head of the southern police district approved plans for the event.

The event will feature a march for about a kilometer (0.6 miles) along up Rager Boulevard, the city’s main thoroughfare, followed by performances funded by the municipality.

The city’s first gay pride parade had been due to take place last year but it was cancelled in the face of police objections to it being held on Rager Boulevard. In recent weeks representatives of the Pride House, the umbrella organization of the city’s LGBT community, has met with the police seeking approval for a march on the traffic artery.

Last year the High Court of Justice declined to overrule the police in opposing the march on the city’s main street, but this year, according to representatives of the LGBT community who spoke to Haaretz, that remained an essential demand if they were to hold the event.

A number of streets in the city will be closed to traffic from 6 P.M. for the parade, which begins at 6:30 P.M. Hundreds of police, border police and volunteers will be on hand to maintain order along the parade route. March attendees will be searched.

The Be’er Sheva Municipality confirmed that it will be providing funding for the event following the parade. It will feature performances by prominent singers Margalit Tzan’ani and Ania Bukstein, but the city will not fund the march itself. Tzion Raz of Pride House said however that the march did not entail major expenses. In prior years, the municipality has funded LGBT community events that have been held in the Old City of Be’er Sheva.

Last week, the municipality included the LGBT events in the city on its Facebook page, but added that it was “organized by the Pride House.” On his own Facebook page, Mayor Ruvik Danilovich made no mention of the parade or the events following it.

For his part, Gadi Mazuz, a member of city council from the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party, which has a large Orthodox religious base, told Haaretz that representatives of the religious community of the city were involved in the approval process for plans for the march, as was the city’s chief rabbi, Yehuda Dery. “It’s a democratic country,” Mazuz said. “From the moment that the police approved it, that’s it. We can’t come out against it.”

Last week the police arrested a 17-year-old resident of the city who in a Facebook group posted a comment stating: “Soon there will be a terrorist attack at the first Pride parade in Be’er Sheva.” The suspect was brought before a judge who released him subject to restrictions.