Thousands participated in the 17th annual LGBTQ pride event in Jerusalem on Thursday under heavy police protection. Some organizers put the number of marchers as high as 35,000 — which would make it the largest pride parade in Jerusalem ever.
Participants waved rainbow flags and Israeli flags with rainbow motifs as they processed through the Jewish part of Jerusalem on the 1.2-mile-long march that took place largely without incident, The Times of Israel reported.
Despite the heavy police presence, the crowd of mostly young Israelis celebrated their identity in an upbeat and positive atmosphere. The marchers carried signs with slogans such as “Born this way,” “There is love in me, and it wins,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Some in the crowd wore kippot provided by religious LGBT activists, a unique feature of the pride parade in Jerusalem.
“Our job is to make sure everyone can express themselves,” Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich told journalists at the event, “and of course that no one gets hurt.”
The theme of this year’s event honored elderly members and pioneers of the LGBT community. Robin Rosenbaum, a sixty-three-year-old San Francisco native, said she was touched by the choice and said it signified “that we’re visible and that our voices and needs are going to be heard by the establishment.”
Another activist reflected on the unique nature of the pride parade in Jerusalem, compared to the high-profile sister event in Tel Aviv. “The energy is definitely different here than what you see in Tel Aviv, but it is just as high level,” said Jerusalem resident Noy Aharon.
“In some ways it’s more because with support of the LGBT community less of a given here, people are making a conscious decision to participate. Those who come are much more passionate about being here,” the 27-year-old draped in a rainbow flag explained.
The event was held in the shadow of widespread frustration over a recent law that prohibits gay men from surrogacy parenthood rights. However, for Eyal Lurie-Pardes, a 23-year-old who is running as a city council candidate for the left-wing Meretz party, the LGBT protest extended well beyond the surrogacy law.
“It’s also about preventing hate crimes against LGBT people, outlawing conversion therapy, recognizing the marriages and adoptions of LGBT couples,” he said.
In 2015 Yishai Schlissel, who had just been released from prison for an attack against gay pride marchers in 2005, stabbed 16-year-old Shira Banki to death at the same event.
At this year’s pride parade, a small counter-protest led by the extremist Lehava organization took place at Liberty Bell Park. Earlier in the week, activists from the group had branded members of the LGBT community “terrorists” in an online video and encouraged their members to protest the march.
[Photo: AFP news agency / YouTube ]