Some 20,000 March in Jerusalem's Pride Parade Under Heavy Security

In light of fatal stabbing attack three years ago, police geared up for prospect of violent counter-demonstrations

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Participants take part in the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade on August 2, 2018.
Participants take part in the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade on August 2, 2018. Credit: AFP
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

Some 20,000 people marched under heavy security in Jerusalem’s Gay Pride Parade on Thursday.

The procession started off at Liberty Bell Park at 5 P.M. and made its way to Paris Square, before culminating in Independence Park, where artists Dana International and Keren Mor gave performances.

The parade route ran along several of the city’s main streets, including Agron, Hillel, King George and Mapu, which were closed to traffic. 

Israeli police forces try to disperse an ultra-Orthodox Jewish demonstration against the annual Gay Parade in Jerusalem, August 2, 2018.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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Jerusalem’s 17th Pride Parade was held three years after Shira Banki, a 16-year old girl, was stabbed to death by an ultra-Orthodox man, Yishai Schlissel, who had been released from prison – after serving 10 years for stabbing participants in the city’s 2005 gay march – shortly before the parade took place. Thursday’s procession included a stop at the spot where Banki was murdered, with her parents laying a wreath there.  

This year’s parade was dedicated to veteran members of the LGBT community and the campaign against the discrimination against gay men in the surrogacy law. Many of the participants wore kippas and colorful prayer shawls.

Opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni and other Zionist Union MKs took part in the parade, as well as Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg. “We’ll be every place in Israel, not only for the LGBT community and the Druze, but for everyone,” Livni said. “We won’t settle for parades, the real solution will be in legislation and in deep social and political change. But today is a great celebration.” 

Zandberg said, “This parade is the decisive answer to the rampant incitement against the gay community.”

In light of the fatal stabbing attack, the police geared up for the possibility that violence could be directed at participants again. Hundreds of policemen, Border Police troops and security guards accompanied the marchers. They checked all parade participants and safeguarded the closing event in Independence Park. Drones were banned, for fear they could be used to harm the marchers. 

Ahead of the festivities, police contacted dozens of right-wing activists to caution them to obey the law and refrain from disrupting the procession. Nevertheless, right-wing organizations and religious groups held counter-protests.

A few dozen members of the far-right "Lehava" organization demonstrated against the parade in Liberty Bell Park and the police arrested four of them. A few more were arrested on their way to the demonstration, organization members said.

Dozens of members of the ultra-Orthodox group “Liba” demonstrated at the entrance to Jerusalem. Rabbi Zvi Taub, a senior figure among national-religious rabbis, took part in it.

The festivities came just a week after 80,000 people demonstrated in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square against an amendment to the surrogacy law that discriminates against gay men. The mass protest capped a day of widespread protests and strikes throughout the country in reaction to the Knesset vote.

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