Gay Pride Jerusalem by Knesset 390.
(photo credit: NIV ELIS)
Jerusalem began marching for its annual March for Pride and Tolerance on Thursday afternoon, which commenced in the city's Independence Park. It is scheduled to conclude in a gathering in Wohl Rose Park, opposite the Knesset, signifying the community's demand for social change in the capital.
According to the group in charge of the festivities, Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (JOH), this will be the event's 12th consecutive year and it is organized for two reasons- "to celebrate existence as individuals, as a community and the many achievements we have made, as well as coming together to protest, demonstrate and demand change."
“Jerusalem Pride is not necessarily a celebration, but more of a protest for the rights that we don’t enjoy,” explained Elinor Sidi, executive director of the JOH during a phone interview from her office in Jerusalem.
The JOH is a grassroots activist community center, providing direct services to all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in Jerusalem and the surrounding communities. The center has been hosting the annual March for Pride and Tolerance since 2002, despite strong opposition and the municipality’s refusal to fund its activities.
“This year we are going to talk about legislation,” explained Sidi. As a way of expressing that theme, the march will begin at Independence Park and end at the Knesset, instead of at Liberty Bell Park, where the march has ended in previous years. Afterward, participants will gather outside the Knesset to listen to speeches from members of the LGBT community. Top-level politicians such as opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) and Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On are also slated to speak.
This will be the third time the march is ending at the Knesset. Sidi said it is necessary to end the day at the country’s political center because there is not enough being done to advance legislation supporting the LGBT community.
Jerusalem municipality police are also preparing for this year's parade.
“We have completed security measures for Thursday’s annual parade, which is taking
place in the center of Jerusalem,” Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Wednesday night.
“Hundreds of officers will be in and around the area to secure the event and prevent any incidents from occurring. “All the people taking part in the parade will be walking
through a number of main roads, and we’ve cordoned off nearby roads for safety
procedures,” Rosenfeld added. “Police will be present throughout the parade.”
While it’s the pride march that always receives the most attention, the week of activities began Sunday, July 28. Labor MK Stav Shaffir is participating in an open conversation titled “Community and Politics,” and there will be a political panel at the JOH including representatives from Labor, Meretz, Likud, Yesh Atid and Hadash. On the cultural scene, a Pride Film Festival is taking place at the city’s Cinematheque, and there will be music and dance nights at clubs such as Mikveh and Video Pub.
All streets and public transportation will close for the march but will re-open afterward.
Yoni Cohen and Daniel K. Eisenbud contributed to this report.