Death threats sent to Jerusalem LGBTQ+ Pride march organizers

The Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance will open at 3 p.m. on Thursday.

Jerusalem Pride Parade 2021 (photo credit: GAL GASHMA)
Jerusalem Pride Parade 2021
(photo credit: GAL GASHMA)

LGBTQ+ politicians and the organizers of the Jerusalem Pride march received threatening messages warning that the senders would not allow the march to occur and that “the fate of Shira Banki,” who was murdered by a Haredi man during the 2015 Pride march in the city, was “waiting” for the participants.

Emuna Klein Barnoy, the organizer of the march from the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, as well as MKs Yorai Lahav Hertzanu, Eitan Ginzburg, Naama Lazimi and Gilad Kariv, received the threats in social media messages from a profile called “The brothers of Yishai Schlissel,” referring to the man who murdered Banki.

“We will not allow the Pride march to be held in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the holy city. The fate of Shira Banki is waiting for you all,” wrote the anonymous threatener.

“This post surprised me this morning and is definitely very disturbing. On the other hand, it is an important reminder of the importance of the march in Jerusalem,” said Barnoy. “I believe that the real answer to this kind of incitement and threats is that everyone who supports freedom, equality and pluralism in the State of Israel will come to march with us tomorrow. Our power as one large and powerful unit will make it clear in the clearest way that the LGBTQ-phobic cries that grate our ears belong to a marginal and extreme minority.”

 A death threat sent to the organizer of the Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance, June 1, 2022 (credit: Courtesy of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance) A death threat sent to the organizer of the Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance, June 1, 2022 (credit: Courtesy of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance)

Israel Police announced on Thursday morning that they had arrested a 21-year-old suspected of sending the death threats. The suspect is a citizen of a European country who has been living for a number of years in south Jerusalem. He will be brought before a court to have his arrest extended later in the day.

Lazimi spoke with Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev about the messages and security measures for the march. Ginzburg will be accompanied by security due to the threats.

"Keyboard thugs will not scare us in our important struggle for equality for the LGBTQ+ community."

Alon Shachar, CEO at the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance

“I call on everyone who advocates the value of equality to join us tomorrow for the Pride and Tolerance March in Jerusalem. This is the real way to demonstrate the power of a large public that will show that the incitement and LGBTQ-phobia belong to only a marginal and extreme minority,” aid Alon Shachar, the CEO of the Jerusalem Open House.

Ginzburg addressed the people who sent the death threats on Wednesday, writing on Facebook “I inform the cowards who are hiding behind the fake account – ‘The brothers of Yishai Schlissel’ – we will march. With our heads held high. Happily. Proudly.”

“The violence, threats and discourse of hatred will not deter us from continuing the just struggle we are waging for full equality of rights for proud community members,” added the MK. “Any such threat only proves to us that our path is the right one, and that we still have more to do.”

Speaker of the Knesset Miki Levy announced on Thursday morning that he would be speaking at the Pride march as well.

"I was shocked to the depths of my soul by the wild incitement to murder, and by the words of contempt against the LGBTQ+ community. Incitement that has previously led to murder in the past. One must not remain silent in the face of people of darkness who spread hatred and incite violence."

"As the Speaker of the Knesset, who represents the entire public in Israel, it is important for me to stand tonight and say in a clear voice: LGBTQ+ people are equal citizens of the State of Israel and deserve full equality of rights. I call on all those for whom freedom and equality are important, all those who oppose hatred and darkness, to come to the parade today and express support. It's important and it matters."

Hate mail

“In the last 24 hours, I have been receiving a particularly unusual number of hate messages, some of which include explicit and indirect threats to harm me and the marchers in the Pride marches,” tweeted Lahav Hertzanu on Wednesday.

“I want to make it clear: this does not scare or break me, on the contrary – I am examining the possibility of joining other pride parades. The light will overcome the darkness.”

“The Labor Party supports the faction members, Gilad Kariv and Naama Lazimi, who are under threat following the faction’s intention to participate in the Pride Parade in Jerusalem,” said the Labor Party in response to the threats sent to its MKs. “The Labor Party will march proudly and fearlessly for freedom, love and equality. We invite everyone to join us.”

Welfare Minister Meirav Cohen also replied to the threats on Wednesday, tweeting “it’s as if we’ve learned nothing.”

“I will march tomorrow with pride in the Jerusalem tolerance march and I invite anyone for whom the subject is important to join. Threats and violence will not deter us,” said Cohen.

The far-right Lehava movement announced that it will be holding a counter protest at Bloomfield Park across from Liberty Bell Park, carrying signs reading “a father and a father is not a family,” “Jerusalem is not Sodom” and “enough with LGBT terror.”

The protest has been approved by police who stressed that they will not allow any form of violence or disorder. Two years ago, Lehava published a pamphlet for its members, advising them on how to “infiltrate” into Pride events.

The threats come two weeks after the first-ever LGBTQ+ Pride march that was to take place in Netivot was canceled after a bullet was placed on the office door of one of the organizers’ mothers and the family vehicle of another organizer was vandalized.

What to expect on Thursday

The 20th Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance will take place on Thursday afternoon, with gates opening for the opening stage in Liberty Bell Park at 3 p.m. The opening area will include booths from various LGBTQ+ organizations, selling Pride merchandise, a quiet zone, a children’s area and an STD testing station.

Opening events will begin at 4:30 p.m., with the reading of the Wayfarer’s Prayer and speeches by politicians, including Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Welfare Minister Merav Cohen. The ambassadors of Canada and the Netherlands will also be present.

Jerusalem Pride Parade 2021 (credit: TZVI JOFFRE)Jerusalem Pride Parade 2021 (credit: TZVI JOFFRE)

The march will set out from Liberty Bell Park toward Paris Square at 5 p.m. The march will end at Independence Park, with events on the main stage there beginning at 7 p.m. The event will be hosted by media personality Shir Reuven and will feature singers Rona Kenan, Ania Bukstein and Aya Zahavi Feiglin, the rapper Echo and actor Shahar Tavoch.

Ori Banki, the father of Shira Banki, will speak at the closing stage, as well as LGBTQ+ activist Omri Feinstein and Dr. Revital Arbel, a member of the Health Services Basket Committee.

Bar Lev conducted a situation assessment with Israel Police ahead of the march on Tuesday. “This is a large and very complex event to manage, and the police’s preparation for it is thorough, and is based on impressive professional abilities, extensive experience gained over the years and a great commitment that the parade will go smoothly. I trust the police command and the policemen and women who will be on the ground.”

“It is a pity that, in 2022, the police still need such an operational effort to secure a march which is a happy celebration, but unfortunately there are still elements among us whose hate is their faith, and they will do anything to try to harm the event. We will not allow that,” said the public security minister. “I call on anyone who is interested in coming to the parade and enjoying the experience, to do so without fear. Israel Police and the experienced and committed police officers will be there to keep you safe.”

Entry to the march with any weapon is prohibited. It is prohibited to fly drones in the area as well. Entry to the march and exit from the march will only be possible at Liberty Bell Park, Paris Square, King David Street near Plumer Square and at the intersection of HaHistadrut and Shamai. All participants will need to go through security checkpoints at the entrances.