The southern city of Beersheba is to hold its first ever gay pride parade after police gave it the go-ahead on Wednesday.
Commander of the police’s Southern District David Bitan approved the parade which will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday and will include a trip down Rager Boulevard, the city’s main thoroughfare.
In previous years, Beersheba’s pride events have been smaller, usually taking place at the city’s youth center. This year will be its first full-fledged public parade.
Last year organizers canceled the event to protest a High Court of Justice ruling that barred participants from marching through Rager Boulevard, citing fears of violence.
Zion Raz, a spokesperson for the city’s Pride House, said on Wednesday that the protest that ensued after last year’s cancellation persuaded the municipality to allow the event to ahead this year as planned.
“Everything began last year, when the city opposed the parade and it was canceled,” he said. “Instead of a parade there was a protest outside the municipality. After the protest the city understood that there is a very large pride community which is furious that it doesn’t receive what it needs.”
“After the protest [the municipality] came to us to learn about the needs of the community and how they can fulfill them,” he said.
Opinion in the city is divided over holding the parade, with many expressing support for the event on social media. However, last week police arrested a 17-year-old for posting on Facebook, “Soon there will be an attack on the first ever gay pride parade in Beersheba.”
Two years ago teen Shira Banki was killed and five people injured by a Jewish religious extremist armed with a knife at a pride parade in central Jerusalem.
Hundreds of police, border guards and volunteers will be deployed to protect the Beersheba marchers.
Earlier this month over 200,000 people attended Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride Parade, including an estimated 30,000 people who came from abroad to take part.