Record high number

30,000 march in Jerusalem Pride Parade

Spirits were high at the parade itself, with live music, effusive dancing and a congenial atmosphere.

Participants in the annual Jerusalem Pride Parade on June 1. 
Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Participants in the annual Jerusalem Pride Parade on June 1. Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

(Times of Israel) – Tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in central Jerusalem last Thursday for the Jerusalem Pride Parade amid heavy security and some 2000 police and riot police officers.

Several lines of police barriers separated the parade, which passed smoothly without any security incidents, from a far-right protest across the road.

Organisers said that the number of participants was a record high since the parade in 2016, a year after 16-year-old Shira Banki was murdered in a knife attack during the event by an ultra-Orthodox extremist.

Taking part in a police security assessment, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who prior to becoming a minister was repeatedly involved in protests against the event, said his priority was to ensure that any similar attack was prevented.

In 2006, Ben Gvir was involved in the “beasts parade” hate march against the LGBTQI community, although he has recently moderated his stance and called LGBTQI individuals “my brothers and sisters” in 2021.

On Thursday evening, Kan news reported that a “beast march” by far-right activists had been cancelled, following a request by Ben Gvir’s erstwhile political mentor and Otzma Yehudit founder Michael Ben Ari.

Ben Ari was reportedly concerned that the aggressive nature of that protest would drown out the message of opposition to what that event’s organisers described as “the abomination parade in Jerusalem and the other cities in Israel”.

Some 30 protesters did, however, gather across the road to demonstrate against the parade.

But spirits were high at the parade itself, with live music, effusive dancing and a congenial atmosphere prevailing.

The march was formally started by US ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, who tweeted about it on Friday.

Anti-government political sentiment was prevalent among the participants, with signs, placards, posters and merchandise all expressing hostility to the current coalition and its political goals.

T-shirts with “I love the High Court of Justice” emblazoned across them were on sale, while participants held signs declaring “There’s no pride without democracy,” both referencing the government’s desire to curtail the authority of the High Court and exert control over the judiciary.

Anthems from the judicial overhaul protests such as “You’re messing with the wrong generation,” were also sung, while the Brothers in Arms protest group and others were also present at the event.

Noam Adkin came from Haifa for the parade, and said it was important for him to be at the event this year due to far-right elements in the current government.

“The most hateful people are in the government right now so the parade feels more important than ever,” said Adkin, noting that he and a group of friends had been verbally abused by youths as they made their way to the event.

Yehonatan Elitzur from Mevaseret Zion said he was attending to “fight for equality and against hatred” and said that despite progress in Israel the LGBTQI community still suffers from discrimination and intolerance.

“I feel this hatred. I’ve felt it at work, in my military service, and in Jerusalem especially I feel a dark cloud of intolerance,” said Elitzur, who grew up in the capital.

A marcher identifying herself as Ada, who made aliyah from Russia in December, had her own perspective.

She said that “discrimination and homophobia” in Russia were both rampant and official government policy, and that the LGBTQI community there could no longer express itself openly.

“I have no choice, I have to be here, you see me here alone, but I feel like all my friends from Russia are here behind me and I am representing them,” she said.

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