Organizer of Jerusalem Pride Parade tells police of threats against marchers

Open House director says the June 1 event ‘will continue without question,’ calls on law enforcement to deal with those targeting event

Participants march under heavy security in the annual Pride Parade, in Jerusalem, June 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Participants march under heavy security in the annual Pride Parade, in Jerusalem, June 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The upcoming Jerusalem Pride Parade has been targeted by repeated death threats, according to its main organizer.

The Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance said Sunday that it had reported a number of threats to police ahead of the June 1 event in the capital.

“We have gotten used to the LGBT community being  the subject of hatred and evil by extremist groups and individuals,” said Open House executive director Alon Shachar in a statement. “The parade will continue marching without question, and will have room for everyone — all those who believe in love, tolerance, freedom and equality.”

Shachar said he was calling on police to address every such threat “in order to assure the security of the marchers and to allow the parade to take place safely.”

Unlike its Tel Aviv counterpart, the Jerusalem Pride Parade is the subject of heavy security and restrictions after an ultra-Orthodox extremist, Yishai Schlissel, stabbed teenage marcher Shira Banki to death at the parade in 2015.

According to Open House, one of the threats it received read: “I hope that Yishai Schlissel will be there to finish the job he started… how can you celebrate this mental illness.”

People at the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem on June 3, 2021 look at a photo of Shira Banki, murdered by an ultra-Orthodox extremist at the march in 2015. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Schlissel carried out the 2015 attack just a few weeks after he was released from prison after serving 10 years for stabbing and harming marchers at the 2005 parade. He is currently serving life in prison.

Open House also shared a separate threatening email it received recently, which read: “Your place is not on the wall but on the tree — hanged with a very thick rope and hoisted in the city square for all to see.”

Similar threats were made ahead of last year’s parade, and a suspect was arrested in advance of the event. About 10 people were arrested throughout the day on suspicion of planning to attack marchers.

This year’s parade is slated for June 1 and will kick off a series of national events marking LGBTQ Pride Month.

At last year’s event, then-Knesset speaker Mickey Levy became the first person in his position to address a gay pride parade. It is not clear if current Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, the first gay individual to hold that role, will take part in events this year. While serving as justice minister in 2019, Ohana did march in the capital.

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy speaks at the annual Jerusalem Pride Parade at Independence Park, June 2, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

This year’s march is also expected to draw a small counter-protest of extremists — an event which has been attended in the past by current Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir. Smotrich was one of the organizers of a “Beast Parade” aimed at comparing members of the LGBTQ community to animals, something he later said he regretted.

Virulently anti-LGBTQ MK Avi Maoz said last year that he would “make sure” to have the annual Jerusalem Pride Parade canceled after joining the government, a claim Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed back against at the time.

Last month Maoz — who has made anti-LGBTQ activities a hallmark of his Noam party’s platform — said he was “embarrassed” to see Ohana’s husband attending official state events, decrying their appearances together as “audacious indoctrination” against Jewish norms.

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