Israel | Despite threats and 30 arrests, Jerusalem Pride a success


Jerusalem Pride (Pic: Facebook)

Police took no risks when it came to safety at Jerusalem Pride this year, following the 2015 murder of a 16-year-old marcher by a religious fanatic.

As estimated 25,000 people took part in the city’s 16th annual pride parade under tight security on Thursday; far more than the 4,000 expected by organisers.

The marchers were in a buoyant and festive mood as they held up rainbow flags and placards calling for LGBT equality.

The event went ahead without incident despite serious safety concerns. The Times of Israel reported that at least one man was arrested for posting online threats against the event.

The 33-year-old from the central region of the country reportedly made the posts on his Facebook page, but police did not reveal details of the threats.

Thirty people were also detained for questioning on suspicion of “intent to disrupt and cause harm during the event”. Police revealed that two were found in possession of knives.

The organisers, Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, said: “This year’s parade is a memorial to the victims of violence and incitement against members of the community and its friends, in Israel and throughout the world.

“Together we will prove that hatred and violence will not frighten us, will not scare us and will not weaken our hands. We will expel the free hatred with love.”

Yarden Noy, one of the survivors of the 2015 attack was defiant in a radio interview: “I’m scared to death but the message I want to give to this march is to not give in to terror.”

In 2015, police were slammed for not stopping Yishai Shlissel, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, convicted of stabbing gay people a decade earlier, from doing it again.

In his attack that year, he viciously ran amok and stabbed six participants in the parade with a 15 cm-long kitchen knife. One of the victims, 16-year-old LGBT ally Shira Banki, tragically succumbed to her injuries in hospital.

The unrepentant Shlissel was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for the murder, plus an additional 31 years for six counts of attempted murder.

Last month, it was reported that Schlissel was suspected of planning another attack from prison on the parade through his brother.

Israel is the most LGBT accepting country in the region, with anti-discrimination laws in place. Same-sex marriage and gay adoption, however, are not yet legal. The country has been accused by some activists of using its tolerance for the LGBT community as a means to obscure human rights violations against Palestinian people.

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