The colorful illumination of a landmark pedestrian bridge in Jerusalem has sparked fierce debate over whether or not it is a tribute to the LGBT community.
The Chords Bridge at the entrance to the Israeli capital has been illuminated with colorful lights for about a month now. The Jerusalem Municipality denies there is any connection between the vibrantly-lit bridge and the colors of the Gay Pride flag, but left-wing and right-wing city council members beg to differ.
Responding to a query by city council member Aryeh King, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat denied that the colorful lights that have appeared on the bridge represent the gay flag. King, who fiercely opposes Gay Pride events in the capital, filed the query regarding the authority that determines which images will be displayed on the bridge and was told that there was no link whatsoever between the colorful lights and the Gay Pride flag.
King responded by assaulting Barkat, charging that the Jerusalem mayor had difficulties reading. “With all due respect, the LGBT community is not the government of Spain, I don’t understand why the municipality has to take part in something like this,” he said.
Responding to Haaretz’s question, the municipality denied on Sunday any connection between the colorful bridge and the LGBT flag.
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But despite these denials, a city council member on behalf of the Jerusalem faction, Itay Gotler, said that the colorful lights were not there by chance and that they only appeared on the bridge after he turned to officials in the municipality following a request by members of the Jerusalem gay community center.
According to Gotler, he was actually asked by municipality workers in what order the flag’s color should appear on the bridge. “Particularly in Jerusalem, there’s a big significance to Gay Pride events. Especially if we want an equal and pluralistic city,” Gotler said.
“Several years ago,” he noted, “we were exposed to the destructive results of extremism and fanaticism [during the 2015 murder of 16-year-old teen Shira Banki, who had participated in the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem]. We can’t fight this extremism by hiding Gay Pride events and marginalizing them.“
He said that the illumination of the bridge, as well as putting up gay flags across the city, make for a basic statement that every community and every population is respected in this city. "I’m glad the municipality approved my request to light up the bridge, and I call for the bridge to remain illuminated until after the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, as agreed,” he added.
The head of Jerusalem’s gay community center, Ofer Erez, said there were queries about the bridge ahead of the parade, which is slated to take place in the city on August 2.
“The problem is not the bridge. The problem is the concern and the shock of Arye King," said Erez. "We expect public officials not to be evasive in the face of homophobic statements. I hope to see the bridge illuminated during the parade and get the support that every city in the Western world gives [its gay community].”
The bridge has been adorned previously with a variety of images. There is an illumination system attached to it that enables the projection of different images onto the bridge. The Israeli flag adorned the bridge on Israel’s Independence Day, while the American flag flashed along the bridge on the day the U.S. Embassy in Israel was moved to the city from Tel Aviv.