The Israel Police deployed thousands of officers to secure the annual Jerusalem Pride Parade being held in the capital on Thursday afternoon.
With thousands of participants expected, some 3,000 officers were being deployed to police the parade, Channel 12 news reported. Police will also use drones for aerial surveillance of the event.
Amid the security preparations, two 17-year-olds were arrested in Jerusalem on suspicion that they hung signs protesting the parade.
Police said dozens of additional signs were found in the teens’ possession. They were slated to be brought before a judge for a remand hearing later in the day.
On Wednesday police arrested a Jerusalem resident after he threatened to kill participants at the event. The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court extended the suspect’s remand until Friday. The suspect is reportedly known to police and has been arrested in the past for making threats. Police suspect he has psychological issues, Channel 12 news reported, adding that the court ordered him sent for an assessment.
Additionally, the extreme-right anti-LGBT Lehava organization called on activists to protest against the parade.
Labor MK Gilad Kariv asked police to ensure that the extremist counter-protesters were prevented from getting close to the march. In a Wednesday letter to Israel Police Chief Kobi Shabtai, he cited violent clashes last month between Jewish and Arab communities in the worst ethnic violence the country had seen in years.
Those events showed how “early police preparation and risk assessment are vital and fateful measures, that if not taken could lead to bloodshed,” Kariv wrote.
Thursday’s parade will begin at 2:30 p.m. in Liberty Bell Park and march toward Independence Park, a distance of several hundred meters.
The parade has been an feature in the city since 2002, though last year’s event was limited due to the coronavirus outbreak.
In 2015 Shira Banki, 16, was stabbed to death during the parade and several others injured by an ultra-Orthodox man who had been released from prison just a few weeks earlier after serving time for attacking a previous parade.
A memorial service will be held this year at the spot where Banki died, as it is every year during the parade. EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret is expected to speak at the event, Haaretz reported.
The parade comes as rights activists raise concerns about anti-LGBT lawmakers in the Knesset as well as the potential coalition.
The head of the Islamist Ra’am party Mansour Abbas on Thursday vowed to oppose any moves to bolster LGBT rights after Meretz party head Nitzan Horowitz said that same-sex marriage was part of the coalition deal.
Additionally, the far-right Religious Zionism party, which now controls six seats in the Knesset, has three members openly hostile to LGBT rights: Avi Maoz, leader of the Noam faction, and Itamar Ben Gvir and leader MK Bezalel Smotrich, organizers of the 2006 “beast march” in Jerusalem, in which religious opponents of the Pride March walked with donkeys.
Ben Gvir has attended annual protests heckling Jerusalem Pride Parade participants. Lehava head Bentzi Gopstein attempted to launch a political career in Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party, but was barred by the Supreme Court from running in 2019 over remarks that “unequivocally” proved that he “systematically incites racism against the Arab public.”
During the Knesset election campaigns, the Noam party had a series of provocative highway billboards and video ads with the slogan “Israel chooses to be normal.” The party claims that the LGBT community has “forced its agenda” on the rest of Israeli society, which believes in a “normal” (heteronormative) family structure. It also likened LGBT and Reform Jews to the Nazis.
In addition to opposing gay marriage and gay parents adopting children via surrogacy, the party’s platform came out against single women having children.