Only three of the seven Jerusalem mayoral candidates were planning on joining Thursday’s gay pride parade in the capital, with one little-known secular candidate even calling for it to be canceled in the future.
MK Rachel Azaria, Ofer Berkovitch and Yosi Havilio all said they would be marching to show their support for the LGBTQ community. Jerusalem Minister Ze’ev Elkin and council member Moshe Lion both said they would not be participating but did not condemn the event.
The ultra-Orthodox candidate, Deputy Mayor Yossi Deitsch of the United Torah Judaism faction, offered no comment when asked by the Walla news site if he would attend.
Secular candidate Avi Salman on Thursday repeated his pledge to cancel the parade if elected mayor, though he said he was not opposed to parades in other cities.
Berkovitch, head of the Hitorerut faction which enjoys the support of some of the city’s more liberal residents, said he would attend the parade.
“I will march together with Hitorerut members,” he told Walla news site. “I will also place a wreath on the site where Shira Banki was murdered. Let me be clear — Jerusalem must allow every community to live within it, have a share in it and to feel safe.”
In 2015, Banki was stabbed to death and several other people were injured by Yishai Schlissel, who had just left prison after serving 10 years for a stabbing attack on a previous Pride Parade in Jerusalem.
Kulanu MK Azaria, a liberal but religious former city councilor, said she would participate in support of the religious gay community.
She said she had held conversations with women from the Orthodox lesbian Bat-Kol group about the difficulties faced by young, religious gay people.
“I will work on this and I will discuss with them how to deal with this in Jerusalem,” she told Walla, adding that she had worked to help the religious gay community for years and would continue to do so in the future.
Havilio, a former legal adviser to the Jerusalem municipality who is running on a pluralistic platform, put up posters around the city saying he would attend the parade. He posted on Facebook calling on all Jerusalemites to participate “for equal rights for all members of the community, and against all expressions of discrimination and hate, and in memory of Shira Banki who was murdered at the parade three years ago.”
גאה לצעוד מחר במצעד הגאווה בירושלים – הצטרפו גם אתם, למען ביטחון ושוויון זכויות לכל חברי הקהילה ונגד כל גילויי האפלייה והשנאה, ולזכרה של שירה בנקי ז"ל, שנרצחה במצעד לפני 3 שנים
Elkin told Walla he did not intend to march in the parade. “I have not done that in the past and this won’t change when I am elected,” he said. “My office will be open to all, including the city’s gay community,” he added.
However, Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, the number two on Elkin’s slate, was planning on attending the parade, as well as other pride events in the city. She told the Serugim religious news website that she was marching in a personal capacity and not as a representative of the list or of Elkin.
Lion said in an interview last week with the Ynet news site that he would not be attending the parade, but that he fully supported the right of “anyone to express his opinion.” He vowed that if he became mayor the annual parade would continue.
Avi Salman, who is running on a secular ticket, not only said he would not attend but called for the parade to be canceled. He told Army Radio that he has very good relations with the LGBTQ community and was not opposed to a parade in Tel Aviv and other places in the country, but felt it was inappropriate for the capital. He claimed to be in possession of a survey finding that 90 percent of Jerusalem residents, not including the ultra-Orthodox community, were opposed to holding the pride parade in the city.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who is not running for reelection, has never attended the parade during his time leading the city, saying he did not want to offend the capital’s ultra-Orthodox population.
Some 2,500 police are being deployed to guard the parade, including border police gendarmes and plainclothes cops. As in years since the 2015 stabbing attack, police will restrict entry points into the march and perform security checks.
Several streets near the march route will be closed off to vehicular traffic starting at 3 p.m.
Last year, around 22,000 people took part in the parade according to police estimates, with 1,000 police officers providing security.