Jerusalem’s impossible-to-attend Pride parade - comment

One can understand that part of Jerusalem objects to the parade. They can do so in peace and quiet, but should they win? Should they always get to dictate the paradigm?

By
June 7, 2019 00:57
3 minute read.
Jerusalem’s impossible-to-attend Pride parade - comment

. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

I wanted to go to the Jerusalem Pride Parade on Thursday.
 
After 20 minutes of being sent one way and another by security forces deployed to protect the parade, I relented and got hummus and beer instead.
 
Jerusalem’s Pride Parade already takes place in difficult circumstances. A victim of two attacks in the last decade, it has faced protests and hostility, but this year it faced a massive cordon.
 
In 15 years of living in Jerusalem, I can’t recall the last time there was such a massive, preventative security presence.
 
Armored vehicles blocked roads and alleys. Police were deployed behind metal barriers, more than those who are sent to deal with riots in east Jerusalem and terrorism.
 
There was more of a visible presence, and a larger security perimeter than that which is set up to protect US presidential visits or Israel’s prime minister.
 
This sends the message that the parade is the problem, not the terrorism that has targeted it.
 
If the goal was to make the parade seem welcome, or at least tolerated, then why create such a cordon so that people who are trying to attend can’t even get to the event?
 
From downtown Jerusalem, the security barrier crossed streets and parking lots. It stretched along Shammai Street, across King George to Shmuel Hanagid and then, oddly, routed people via the Ratisbonne Monastery to Keren Kayemet Boulevard.
 
Having traced that route of security, it became clear that the actual entrance to the parade was so circuitous to get to that it wasn’t worth it to continue.
 
Still, thousands of people were trying to get there. Many of them had gotten off public transportation in the city center and been told, at one security checkpoint after another, to keep going around.
 
Local residents were also made to feel unwelcome, and told off when they tried to understand the cordon. There were no signs, no maps, and no directional signals, nothing to explain where civilians and city residents might go to either get to the parade or get around it.


THE MESSAGE seemed clear on Thursday: Pride is not wanted here. It’s barely tolerated.
 
It was as if the stabbing attacks against the parade in 2005 and 2015 were not the problem, but rather that the parade was the problem. It had to be hidden away, and people kept from seeing it.
 
This is in contrast to the Pride parade in Tel Aviv and the welcoming public.
 
One can understand that part of Jerusalem objects to the parade. They can do so in peace and quiet – but should they win? Should they always get to dictate the paradigm? Should the intolerant always get to decide? Should those who threaten violence always somehow succeed?
 
Across the world, the message that democracies are sending is that religious extremists, the terrorists, those who will wield knives or guns or cars to attack, will always dictate how they should respond.
 
Democracies respond by closing down areas that were once open, putting up cordons, and deploying masses of armed police.
In a sense, democracies respond by becoming authoritarian. Why not make the angry extremist people stand behind the cordon?
Why do the civilians, the law abiding, the average decent and hard-working public always have to be the ones that pay the price?
 
Why is it in Jerusalem that when some ultra-Orthodox extremists protest publicly against army service, they are allowed to take over public areas, block highways and train service, and be treated with the utmost respect?
 
A few stinking water cannons; but mostly they are allowed to protest into the night and shout curses at everyone, and call women names.
 
For some reason, they are not given even a small percentage of the stringent conditions that Jerusalemites who wanted to walk around their city on Thursday received from the cordon.
 
It’s understandable that City Hall and the police have a difficult challenge to secure the parade.
 
It’s understandable that they have other difficult challenges in managing a religious and diverse city.
 
It is Jerusalem, after all. But one day a year could be set aside for Jerusalem residents to be welcomed to the Pride Parade, for the city to be made flexible and welcoming for the residents and visitors who want to see the parade, instead of making it difficult and thus angering the local residents who come to resent the whole day.


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