Some 5,000 people gathered in Jerusalem to take part in the capital’s 10th annual Gay Pride Parade on Thursday.
Participants assembled in Independence Park downtownwere addressed by Adam Russo, a member of the gay community, who was stabbed during the pride march in 2005. In an interview with Channel 10 news, Russo said that while it took him several years to overcome his distress over the attack, he has long since moved on. He also acknowledged that today the gay community does not feel the same hatred from the general population.
The opening evening event included a keynote address by American Jewish philanthropist Lynn Schusterman, who also joined the march. Schusterman is the chair of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network (CLSPN).
“We must work together to strengthen Jerusalem as a modern, open capital and to foster welcoming, inclusive communities across the Jewish world,” Schusterman said in her address. “It is vital to the health and vibrancy of the global Jewish future and to ensuring a strong Israel.”
The Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade has long been a point of contention in the city. Opponents have said that the parade has no place in Judaism’s holiest city and believe that the parade is more suited for Tel Aviv, which was named the world’s most gay-friendly city of 2011 in an international American Airlines competition.
Unlike in previous Jerusalem pride parades, this year police said they did not receive any threats of violence from the religious community. Nevertheless, hundreds of policemen and border guards were deployed to protect the marchers.
This year’s parade also marks three years since the shooting at the Youth Bar, which is the location of the Tel Aviv branch of the Israeli Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Association. The attack, which took place on August 1, 2009, killed Nir Katz, 26, and Liz Troubishi, 17. Sixteen people, mostly minors, were injured in the shooting. The attackers were never caught.
Hundreds of counter-demonstrators gathered in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim. Among the demonstrators was right-wing activist Baruch Marzel, brought three donkeys with him. Each of the donkeys bore a sign, one of which read “I’m proud too,” a second one read “Proud Donkey” and the third one simply read “Pride March.”
On Thursday morning Jerusalem residents woke up to discover that the block letters welcoming people to the main entrance of the city were painted with the LGBT community’s trademark rainbow colors.