Controversy, Concern As Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade Nears


Just 24 hours before the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, mayor Nir Barkat announced that he would not be attending.

In an interview published Wednesday by Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Barkat said that while he supports the LGBT community, he could not participate because he does not want to “harm” the ultra-Orthodox community.

“If somebody unexpectedly runs into something in public, such as nudity or other things, it's something that harms the public's feelings,” he said. “The gay-lesbian community needs to be considerate, just like the gay-lesbian community demands that the ultra-Orthodox and religious community be considerate."

After the interview, Barkat sent out a series of tweets reaffirming his support for the LBGT community and their right to march.

Concern over the parade has mounted following the lethal stabbing at last year’s pride march. The attack, perpetrated by Yishai Schlissel, a member of the charedi community, resulted in the death of 16-year-old Shira Banki.

Two days before this year’s event, the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem warned American citizens to “exercise caution,” reports JTA.

Event organizers are expecting 10,000 participants this year, according to The Jerusalem Post, which reports that the Jerusalem District Police are taking no chances with security. Once the event commences, no one will be allowed in or out of the barricade-lined parade route without “security clearance,” according to The Jerusalem Post’s report.

“Hundreds of police officers, border guard officers, undercover officers, reinforcements and volunteers, led by Jerusalem District Police Commander Yoram Halevy, will be deployed to oversee the procession,” said Luba Samri, a police spokeswoman.

To ensure the safety of the event, the Jerusalem District Police detained the family of Schlissel, who is currently serving a life sentence for his attack at last year’s parade. Schlissel’s brother, Yishai, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of “seeking to interfere with” the upcoming pride parade, according to The Jerusalem Post. Additionally, Schlissel’s mother and siblings, aside from Yishai, were arrested and subsequently released from prison Wednesday afternoon, but they were ordered to stay out of Jerusalem until after the parade.