The Mitzpe Ramon Pride March scheduled for Friday will stick to its its original route, after police withdrew its opposition on Wednesday amid a High Court hearing on the issue.
Members and allies of the LGBT community taking part in the march are now slated to pass near the Midbara K’Eden hesder yeshiva and religious high school, located in the city center. The original route was submitted to local police in May and approved at the time.
Last week, however, police notified organizers that the march would be moved to the outskirts of the city after “severe and serious harm to public safety and public order,” were confirmed by police intelligence reports. Midbara K’Eden, which had filed to organize a counterprotest, was instead approved to demonstrate along the LGBT pride march’s original route.
In response, the Keshet non-profit, a local lobby group, and the Be Free Israel organization that advocates for policy change regarding the role of religion in state affairs, filed a petition with the High Court to appeal the decision.
“There is no physical overlap between the original parade route and the yeshiva,” Justice Uzi Vogelman said earlier in the proceedings, Haaretz reported. “This is not a situation where there is an entrance to a hostile area, and the police cannot provide a buffer.”
In a meeting with Dimona police officials, who hold authority over the Mitzpe Ramon jurisdiction, Midbara K’Eden faculty said that they would allow students to counter-protest and that they will “not have control over students” and any actions they may take, according to Ynet.
Ynet also reported that students and rabbis at the religious school felt that members of the LGBT community intend “to murder their rabbi,” according to local police Commander Lt. Gen. Moshe Zrihan. Religious community members also told police officials that Bentzi Gopstein of the radical right-wing Lehava organization was expected to attend the counter-protest, the report said.
When these and similar statements were raised in court proceedings, Justice Daphne Barak Erez responded: “So what is the message? That extreme expressions cause the Pride March to move. It looks like it pays to express oneself in an extreme way,” Haaretz quoted the judge as saying.
Barak Erez further recommended that the police “do their homework first” before making similar calls about rerouting marches or protests based on threats.
Be Free Israel, one of the nonprofits active in the lawsuit, lauded the withdrawal of the police petition on Facebook, saying the decision shows “that there is no situation in which an extremist rabbi and a handful of violent homophobes will set the agenda and push the parade out of the fence, neither in Mitzpe [Ramon] nor anywhere in the country.”
The Association for LGBT Individuals in Israel also expressed their joy over the reinstatement of the original march route. “It is a great achievement for our freedom to be who we are and to express our voice where we are. We must not allow them to exclude and push us to the margins only because of extremists that the police refuses to address,” they posted on social media.