YOUTH SIT next to candles last month during a vigil in Tel Aviv for Shira Banki, who died of stab wounds sustained when a man with a knife attacked a Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On the eve of this year’s Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, the capital’s mayor has opted out of the event, while leading rabbis continued to spread incitement against it.
Members of the LGBT community have prepared a joyful celebration that otherwise marks one year since the brutal stabbing murder of 16-year-old Shira Banki by a fanatical, homophobic ultra-Orthodox Jew. An augmented police force is being deployed to protect participants from the consequences of incitement that continues unabated from the usual suspects, but in a stunning reversal, Mayor Nir Barkat has apparently joined the inciters.
In an interview with Yediot Aharonot, Barkat – whose municipal coalition is dominated by right-wing and religious members, and who recently joined the Likud in an apparent move to prepare a run for the premiership – stated: “I won’t march, because I don’t want to be part of the harm to the ultra-Orthodox public and the religious-Zionist public... As mayor, I represent everyone, and therefore I’m on the side of the heads of the community and their rights, and I’ll do everything to facilitate their realizing them.”
Reaction was quick to follow. Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On blasted Barkat for “degrading Banki’s memory,” and accused the mayor of cynically coddling his ultra-Orthodox constituency to gain political points.
“The mayor again succumbed to religious terrorism, and making small political calculations against the gay community without shame, while spitting on the safety and dignity of the entire community to elicit electoral gains, and thus is derelict of his duty as a public figure,” Gal-On said.
MK Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) also condemned Barkat: “The head of Israel’s capital should show sensitivity and concern to all populations in the city, not just one particular sector, and his statement is even more blatant and insensitive by his deciding not to attend the parade.”
In response, Barkat reiterated his refusal to attend, but promised to “personally lay a wreath at the site where Shira Banki was murdered.”
Some rabbis continue to incite their followers against the LGBT community, blithely ignoring the lethal effect this had on Shira Banki. Rabbi Dov Lior, for example, a senior authority in the National Religious movement, publicly supported the extremist Lehava organization in its planned protest against Thursday’s parade.
“I find it correct to back your protest against the parade – which the Torah calls ‘an abomination’ – in the Holy City of Jerusalem, which harms the holiness of Jerusalem and its inhabitants,” Lior said.
Rabbis have plastered notices throughout Jerusalem’s haredi neighborhoods calling to protest the parade: “Those who despise God plan to conduct a march of abomination as a massive international event in the courtyards of Jerusalem to defile and desecrate the Holy City, with the support of the municipal authority and funding from the regime.”
Apparently the mayor’s decision to opt out did not cleanse the municipality from the taint of abomination.
Haredi leader Rabbi Meir Mazuz blamed last October’s terrorist slayings of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin on the gay pride parade in Jerusalem. “This pride march, what pride? Pride to wage war against the Torah, pride to wage war against creation, pride to wage war against God? For this the punishment came,” Mazuz told a memorial event for the Henkins, the Walla news website reported.
Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar believes the public is “disgusted” by homosexuality. “I believe this phenomenon will get smaller and will cancel itself out because the majority of the public is disgusted by it and sick of it,” Amar said on the haredi B’Hadrei Haredim website.
Havruta, an association of religious homosexuals, condemned Amar’s remarks. “The words of the chief rabbi of Jerusalem constitute severe incitement and are extremely harmful,” it said. “This homophobia among rabbis who are leading opinion-makers and public servants has to stop immediately. The time has come that such words be considered in the State of Israel to be incitement and against the law, since they are likely to lead to actual injury against an entire community.”
On Sunday, President Reuven Rivlin met with the Banki family. “All incitement against the LGBT community must stop,” Rivlin declared. “This is not our way.
This is not the way of Israeli society... a much greater effort must be made in educating toward tolerance, and the great battle is still ahead of us.”