Pride march in Netivot nixed after bullet sent to organizer’s mother

Aguda umbrella group says event canceled due to safety concerns; lawmakers condemn death threat, urge that parade go ahead

People march during the annual Gay Pride Parade in Haifa, June 18, 2021. (Roni Ofer/Flash90)
Illustrative: People march during the annual Gay Pride Parade in Haifa, June 18, 2021. (Roni Ofer/Flash90)

The Aguda umbrella organization for LGBTQ groups in Israel announced Wednesday that it was canceling a planned pride march in the southern city of Netivot after a bullet was sent to the mother of one of the organizers.

Lawmakers condemned the development and urged that the parade, scheduled for the beginning of June, still go ahead.

Aguda director Ran Shalhavi said in a statement that the march was canceled “out of responsibility for the safety and welfare of community members.”

“This is a badge of shame for the State of Israel,” he added.

Shalhavi called on police to protect the organizers. He said the fact that “an event whose essence is tolerance and acceptance within the framework of dialogue” draws death threats is “convincing proof that our campaign is not over.”

The 9mm bullet was left in a bag on the office door of the mother of the march’s organizer. Police opened an investigation.

Last week, during a protest outside her home, demonstrators threw rocks at the building and smashed the windshield of her car, Channel 12 news reported.

The mother, who was not named in the report, told the station that things had been “blown out of proportion.”

“You can talk and speak [out], but to threaten murder? That is too much, and very frightening,” she said. “What have we come to that in order to prevent a pride event in the city there are death threats? It is terrible and I am shocked.”

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli tweeted, “Anyone who threatens the pride march leaders with murder is threatening all of us and our freedoms here. We will never surrender to violence. Nor to incitement. We will not surrender to anyone who wants to destroy the life we have here.”

MK Eitan Ginzburg of the Blue and White party, who leads the Knesset Caucus for the LGBTQ Community, said in a statement that sending the bullet had crossed “all possible boundaries.”

“Threats, violence, and hate speech will not deter us from continuing our just campaign for full equal rights for members of the proud community,” he added.

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli in Tel Aviv, on February 22, 2022. (Avshalom sassoni/Flash90)

Ginzburg called on the Netivot municipality to push for the parade to go ahead as planned.

The cancellation of the parade, he said, will be seen as a “capitulation to the violent extremists who are trying to harm us but will not deter us.”

Earlier this week the mayor of Netivot told LGBTQ community representatives in a meeting that he would not support holding the march, even though they explained that the theme would be tolerance, according to Channel 12.

Netivot rabbis have spoken out against the march and called on residents to do everything in order to prevent the event within the boundaries of the law.

Last week the Ynet news site reported that Rabbi Haim Abergil, a well-known figure in the city, had published a video in which he warned that holding the event would “distress” God and lead to rocket attacks on the country and “terrible terror attacks in every city” that held marches.

A petition against the march that declared Netivot “is not the place for abomination” drew over 4,000 signatures, while a counterpetition in favor received just 100.

LGBTQ pride marches are held annually in several locations across the country, including the capital Jerusalem, with the largest event taking place in Tel Aviv.

Participants in the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade place flowers at a memorial for Shira Banki, who was murdered during the parade in 2015, on June 6, 2019. (Times of Israel)

The events often spur protests, as well as threats of violence.

During the 2015 pride parade in Jerusalem, a 16-year-old participant, Shira Banki, was stabbed to death by an ultra-Orthodox extremist. The stabber, Yishai Schlissel, had been released from prison just three weeks earlier after serving eight years for a similar stabbing attack at the Jerusalem parade in 2005.

The bullet message came after right-wing political activist Ilana Sporta Hania, 65, of Ashkelon, was arrested last week for making threats against Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his family, including sending bullets to their home.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed