Jerusalem gets ready to host annual gay pride parade

“There are many religious people who are willing to accept the LGBT community, and we intend that the parade will be a platform for dialogue and understanding, not for hatred.”

Jerusalem Pride Parade (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Jerusalem Pride Parade
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Jerusalem will host its annual LGBT pride parade beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, for the 16th consecutive year. This year’s theme is “religion and LGBT.”
Sarah Kala, CEO of LGBT advocacy NGO the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that this comes as an answer to all of those who claim to oppose the LGBT community in the name of religion, and especially against Yishai Schlissel, the haredi man who murdered 16-year-old Shira Banki during the parade two years ago and also stabbed three people during the parade in 2005. Schlissel defended his acts saying that he did it in the name of religion, and that holding the parade desecrates the name of God.
“Our main message is saying ‘No,’ this is not our [way of practicing] religion,” said Kala. “There are many religious people who are willing to accept the LGBT community, and we intend that the parade will be a platform for dialogue and understanding, not for hatred.”
Kala said that this theme, which the Open House members chose in a vote, was happily accepted, particularly by the younger members. She added that they agreed that such a theme suits a city like Jerusalem.
“There are many religious members in our youth groups,” she said. “They are trying to promote the public discourse about being religious and LGBT. Some of them have abandoned the religious way of life, but they are still looking for a way to be accepted by their families, communities and the whole National Religious sector.
“Also, we understand that religion was one of the most basic characteristics of Jerusalem,” Kala continued. “Every resident feels the religious atmosphere of the city, even if they do not practice a religious way of life.”
Kala said that through the parade, the LGBT community intends to say that it is a part of the religion and the religious life, and an inseparable part of the colorful mosaic in the city. “We want to show the connection between the community and religion. It is an absurdity to say that one is either an LGBT [person] or a religious [person, and cannot be both at the same time].
“There are religious people who respect the LGBT community; we know that. But there are some who find this connection – between LGBT and religion – somewhat challenging. We think that this parade is one way to connect religious people to the LGBT community.”
Kala then added that she understands if some religious people choose to stay away from Thursday’s event, and stressed that the Open House works all year long to promote dialogue.
She added that next to the starting point of the parade in Liberty Bell Park, a play area, including activities for families and children, will be set up as a response to the public debate over whether LGBT couples should be allowed to adopt children.
“Through this installation we will convey a message that children are the source of happiness, and that all kinds of families are welcome there,” she said. “A good family is a loving family.”
The Open House projects that more than 10,000 people will participate in the parade, and believes the number might be high as 20,000. Kala said that 10,000 were expected last year, but 30,000 showed up. “We could only let 25,000 participate [because of space issues], unfortunately. But we still call on everybody to come this year.”
The parade will include a 1-km. march, to Independence Park, where musicians will perform. The concert will be held in memory of singer and activist Amir Fryszer Guttman, who was supposed to host the event but died two weeks ago after saving his niece from drowning at an Atlit beach.
Hundreds of policemen, border policemen and police volunteers will secure the march. All the streets surrounding the parade will be closed for traffic during the afternoon and evening. This includes King George Avenue and Hillel, Agron, Keren Hayesod and Be’eri streets.
Police have issued a permit to extreme-right groups, such as Lehava, to hold a counterprotest, several hundred meters away from the march, under police guard. Police have warned around 50 persons not to disrupt the parade, with some told that they cannot be in the capital on Thursday.
Lehava CEO Bentzi Gopstein told the Post that some 50 protesters plan to attend the event. He added that their main themes will be “Jerusalem is not Sodom” and “Do not let them adopt children.”
The Jerusalem Municipality told the Post that Mayor Nir Barkat will not attend the parade, due to a trip abroad. The municipality added that “recently, Barkat allocated some NIS 500,000 in support of the Open House.”