The first-ever LGBTQ Pride event slated to take place in the southern Israeli town of Netivot was canceled Wednesday over death threats against the mother of one of the organizers.
Last week, a man threw a stone at the woman’s car, smashing one of the windows. On Wednesday, a plastic bag with a bullet was hung on a door at her workplace. The Association for LGBT Equality in Israel subsequently announced the cancellation of the event and said it would provide security for the three organizers. The police said they had opened an investigation.
LGBT activists met with Netivot Mayor Yehiel, a member of the Likud party, on Tuesday and clarified that the event, planned for June 3, aimed to promote tolerance and provide a safe space for LGBT residents. According to the activists, the mayor said he did not intend to support holding the event.
Following the event's cancellation, the mayor said in a statement on Wednesday that the Netivot Municipality "harshly condemns any display of violence of any kind toward any person or community" and the mayor "calls on all the city's residents to show tolerance and restraint and to preserve the character of Netivot as a city that has for many years seen relations of mutual tolerance and respect between all segments of the population."
- Technion Rabbi Apologizes for Calling on anti-LGBTQ Students to 'Protect the Campus'
- Israel's Health Ministry Bans LGBTQ 'Conversion Therapy'
- Tel Aviv Is Out: Dozens of New Queer Communities Change Israel's Landscape
The statement went on to say that Yehiel had attempted to convince the organizers not to hold the event when he met with them "because of the desire of us all to maintain the status quo that has existed in this city for many years and in order to avoid hurting the feelings of a large community in the city that opposes the march. I hope these remarks did not fall on deaf ears and that the march won't be held."
Members of the Knesset's pro-LGBT caucus sent a letter to Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, calling on him to "act urgently to find and bring to justice those who made the threats."
Nofar Zohar, a resident of Netivot and one of three organizers of the event, says that the other two organizers are former residents of the city, and that one of them relocated about six months ago, as he felt he couldn't live in the city freely.
“We have been working on the event since February, planning for a modest event – nothing provocative. No floats, no thongs – nothing. As respectful as possible, precisely because of the population that lives here. A short parade, followed by dialogue and conversation.”
Zohar adds that according to the association's statistics, “the LGBT community is around 10 percent of all residents of any particular city. So if there are 43,000 residents here [Netivot], we’re talking about at least 4,000.”
Zohar says the threats and the cancellation of the event send a message to the LGBT community that “they have reason to be afraid,” which is precisely what she says the event organizers wanted to prevent. “Our exact goal was to say that there’s no reason to be afraid – even if you’re Haredi – and there are many of them in the closet. Whether you’re religious or secular, we’re here with you and for you.”