Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was unapologetic Wednesday over his decision to not participate in the city’s Gay Pride Parade on Thursday, saying that although he supports the right of the LGBT community to march through the capital it is not necessarily the best path to tolerance.
Speaking to Channel 2, Barkat said he takes into consideration all of the capital’s residents, including the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) community.
“I am a partner to the aim of achieving more tolerance, but not every means brings you to that target,” he stressed. “For example, I know many people seem themselves offended by the parade. It is not a means of achieving the goal.”
Although the parade route avoids largely ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of the city, the annual march has long drawn vociferous protests from the religious community.
In an interview published earlier in the Hebrew-language Yedioth Ahronoth daily, the capital’s mayor said he would not attend the highly charged march for fear of offending the religious residents of Jerusalem.
His comments set off an immediate firestorm, with Zionist Union MK Merav Michaeli accusing Barkat of siding with the man who killed 16-year-old Shira Banki and wounded several others in a stabbing attack at last year’s parade.
“Anyone who is looking for black and white is wrong and misleading because this is a complicated city,” Barkat told Channel 2.
“A day after the parade we need to live together. I am a great believer in tolerance. Tolerance is to listen. If you take an action that harms someone, think twice if that action is the best way to achieve the result.”
Barkat, who has been mayor of Jerusalem since 2008, told Channel 2 that he chose to be honest about his reasons for not attending the parade.
“I was asked if I plan to march or not. I could have avoided the question, to not say why. But I want to deal with the reality, and the reality is that I have different populations in the city and I feel — as mayor — that they are all my children. I need to take care of all of them, and I will take care of the rights of the LGBT community, sometimes even more than other places.
“I can also look the ultra-Orthodox and religious community in the eyes and clarify to them that it is the democratic right of the LGBT community to march, with all of the implications of that. On the other hand, I certainly think that it is legitimate, as the mayor, to look at the gay community in the eyes and tell that there is a shared life here,” he said.
“Just as the [gay] community is taken into consideration and allowed to march, nothing will happen if it also takes into consideration the ultra-Orthodox community.”
The mayor said he intends to make his own private dedication to Banki on the day of the parade.
“I will arrive personally before the parade to the place where she was murdered and I will lay a flower as a sign of identification against violence and against incitement.”
Barkat also ordered pride flags that have been placed along the parade route removed from in front of the city’s Great Synagogue at the request of the city’s chief rabbi, Israel National News reported Wednesday.
Schlissel’s attack on the pride parade in 2015 came just weeks after the ultra-Orthodox zealot was let out of prison, where he served a 10-year sentence for a similar though nonfatal attack on the 2005 pride parade in which he stabbed three people. On Wednesday, his brother Michael Schlissel was detained by Jerusalem police on suspicion of planning an attack on the parade.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.