‘A victory of light over darkness’: 7,000 march in Jerusalem’s 20th Pride Parade

Held under tight security, march ends peacefully; 10 arrested, suspected of disruptive plans; in 1st such appearance, Knesset speaker says: ‘You are entitled to love who you want’

Thousands take part in the annual Jerusalem Pride Parade, June 2, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Thousands take part in the annual Jerusalem Pride Parade, June 2, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Thousands of participants marched in the annual Jerusalem Pride Parade on Thursday without major incident, after threats of violence were made against an organizer of the march and lawmakers who planned to attend.

More than 7,000 participants joined in, marching from Liberty Bell Park, heading up Keren Hayesod and King George streets and ending at Independence Park. The event was the 20th Pride Parade in the country’s capital.

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy addressed crowds at the conclusion of the parade at Independence Park, a first for a holder of the post.

Levy said he was “shocked to the depths of my soul” over the threats of violence.

“So I came today to stand against this evil specter,” Levy said, expressing his support for the equality of LGBTQ citizens.

“You are entitled to love who you want, you are entitled to marry who you love, you are entitled to raise a family like anyone else. These are not privileges, these are basic rights for every citizen in the country,” he added.

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

Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen and Public Security Minister Omer Barlev also joined the thousands of marchers.

Barlev called the parade “a victory of light over darkness, a victory of sanity over extremism.” He lamented that police were forced to provide security at the “colorful and beautiful” event, “instead of protecting citizens from crime and terror.”

Ten people were arrested in Jerusalem and taken for questioning by police over suspicions that they intended to harm participants.

Honenu, a legal aid group that often represents cases of far-right individuals, claimed that among those arrested were minors, and some were on their way to a legal countermarch.

Among those arrested were two men from Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh, who police allege intended to attack people at the parade. Police said officers searched a car they deemed suspicious near Emek Refaim Street and found tear gas inside their vehicle.

Police were on high alert on Thursday in the lead-up to the march and said they would be deploying more than 2,400 officers to protect it. Police had identified and were monitoring some 180 people who could pose a threat to participants. At least 20 of the suspects were considered highly likely to try and attack the event, they said.

Yehuda Gedalia, 21, was arrested late Wednesday for allegedly sending threats over Facebook and Twitter to Jerusalem Open House community director Emuna Klein Barnoy warning: “We will not allow the Pride Parade to take place in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the Holy City. Shira Banki’s fate awaits you.”

The message was also sent to MKs Gilad Kariv (Labor), Naama Lazimi (Labor) and Eitan Ginzburg (Blue and White). The threats were sent from an account under the name of “The brothers of Yishai Schlissel.”

Schlissel, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, stabbed 16-year-old Banki to death during the 2015 parade just three weeks after he was released from prison, where he had served an eight-year sentence for a stabbing attack at the same march 10 years earlier.

Gay pride stabber Yishai Schlissel is led out of the courtroom, at the Jerusalem District Court on June 26, 2016, after being sentenced to life in prison and an additional 31 years. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ori Banki, Shira Banki’s father, was scheduled to address a post-march party.

Pride events in Jerusalem are always tense affairs with right-wing and religious counterprotests a constant along with a history of deadly violence.

Pride marches are held annually in several locations across the country. Tel Aviv puts on the largest event, with tens of thousands typically attending. It is scheduled to take place this year on June 10.

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