At the end of a week of soaring tensions, High Court petitions, threats, riots and compromises, on Friday afternoon the pride event kicked in Jerusalem around 11:00 a.m.
'Violence won't silence us' (Photo: Gil Yochanan)
The event, which took the form of a rally instead of the original intended parade which was supposed to march through the capital, is being held in Hebrew University’s stadium on the Givat Ram campus. An unprecedented 3,000 police officers were securing the event.
Thousands of youths from the gay and lesbian community and their peers and supportes streamed into the stadium since the early morning, to watch performances, hear speech and express solidarity with the freedom of speech.
Shortly after the start of the event, police arrested a 30-year-old man disguised as an event participant tried to leap onto the stage while calling out anti-gay slogans.
No weapons were found on his person and no one was hurt in the incident. He was detained for questioning.
Earlier, in Gan Sacher in Jerusalem five youth wear arrested with brass knuckles, knives and sticks. One held a gun with a permit. They were held for further questioning.
Pride event participants (Photo: Gil Yochanan)
A number of Knesset members arrived at the stadium to exhibit solidarity, including MK Ran Cohen (Meretz). Addressing the crowd, Cohen noted: “What stands out in my eyes is that the compromise reached was inadequate by a long shot. It is true that they (the gay communitiy) achieved their main goal which was to hold the rally, but in a way Israeli democracy lost out. Apparently, there are elements involved in incitement in the heart of Jerusalem, and the interior minister and police chief don’t stop them.”
“The fact that police did not make the inciters and violent ones stop shows that (Avigdodr) Lieberman, Ehud Olmert, and Amir Peretz are against the parade and in favor of the ultra-Orthodox.”
On the other hand, Cohen’s colleague from Meretz MK Zahava Galon said she believed the “event was an appropriate compromise, not a surrender. The Open House’s struggle was brave, determined and in the end wise to hold the happening here under secure conditions. I am proud to be with them today in Jerusalem.”
Renowned Israeli author Sami Michael said during the event that he was “grateful to the police” which drew enthusiastic applause. “A society that tries to straighten others is itself crooked,” he said. “Lately the term ‘not in the way of nature’ has been used to talk about members of the community. I worked in nature for 20 years and I know what happens in nature. They (the ultra-Orthodox) don’t get that the earth is a laboratory of experiments and changes and there is nothing unnatural about it.”
Like MKs Cohen and Galon, the feelings among the participants were mixed as well. The general feeling was that it was victory under threat, but some bitterness and disappointment was expressed also. The organizers themselves seemed satisfied, but they admitted that would have preferred a parade. One said cynically, “They don’t even cage Betar fans up like this.”
Aside from members of the gay and lesbian community, a number of youth groups, Meretz activists and other supporters attended the event, most dressed in colorful clothing.
Scuffle at ‘alternative’ parade
The event itself so far kicked off smoothly and without any hitches, but earlier friday dozens of people decided that they were not satisfied with the compromise to hold the gay pride events enclosed in the Givat Ram stadium, and set out on their own alternative pride parade.
The alternative parade was not coordinated with the police and as the gay pride activists marched into Jerusalem’s Bell Park, a scuffle broke out between the marcher and extreme-right activists. Police were alerted to the scene and separated the sides.
Activist arrested by police (Photo: Yoav Gilai)
Lihi, one of the organizers of the march, explained that its aim was to prove what the parade aimed to show from the start: “The agreements reached damage everything the march is trying to accomplish. Instead of marching in the street, they are taking us back into the closet, and we aren’t willing to accept them. The police and the state are obligated to protect our right to protest. We feel that the agreement doesn’t reflect us or our position, and we will fight for the freedom of expression.”
Rumor of the alternative march reached the ears of the extreme right, and dozens came to Bell Park, including well-known right-wing activists Baruch Marzel, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Noam Federman. “The movement plans to come here and try to have a march. We won’t let this happen. Either the police will do the job, or we will,” they said.
Other right wing activists arrived with placards carrying the slogan “No to abomination.” A small riot broke out at the scene.
“You’ll march over our dead bodies! Get out of here, perverts and sickos,” Federman shouted, then warned those near him: “Be careful not to get too close so you don’t catch AIDS.”