22,000 take part in Jerusalem Pride Parade
The parade, which is expected to be the biggest in the capital's history, will begin at the Liberty Bell Park and will end at Independence Park; earlier, memorial services were held for Nir Katz, who was murdered at the Barnoar club in 2009, and Shira Banki, who was murdered at the Jerusalem Pride Parade 3 years ago.
Some 22,000 people are taking part in the Pride Parade in Jerusalem on Thursday afternoon, with is expected to be the biggest in the capital's history.
Hundreds of activists made their way to Jerusalem in an Equality Convoy that kicked off the Pride Parade events.
The parade, which was organized by the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, began at the Liberty Bell Park, making its way through Plumer Street, Keren HaYesod, King George, Hillel, Menashe Ben Israel Street and will end at Independence Park.
“Yesterday, I heard Rabbi Shlomo Aviner say studies prove that we are miserable. Who are you to tell us that we are miserable? Rabbi Levinstein said that we are perverts, driving the country crazy. You are the pervert," he said.
“You are the bad ones, haters of women, racists and most importantly—not Jewish. We are the Jews, the enlightened, while you are darkness. You are afraid of us, and rightly so. In response to a letter by 200 bad rabbis, there was a letter by good rabbis as well as religious Yeshiva graduates. That is why we are winning.”
As marchers made their way along Keren HaYesod Street, they chanted: “The people demand social justice for LGBT” and “Homophobia begins in the halls of government.”
Uri and Mika Banki, whose daughter Shira was murdered at the Pride Parade in the capital three years ago, laid a wreath at the scene of the murder.
Dozens of activists from the "Pink Panthers" LGBT protest group marched together.
"It's been over a month since the Israeli government declared war on the LFBT community, and we're out on the streets across the country," one activist said.
"Today we've arrived at the capital to shout in one loud voice: We deserve equality not just in words, but real equality in law and in budgets. If it's not yet clear to the decision-makers, we will not be silent until the violence against us is stopped, until we are equal citizens."
Attending the parade, incoming opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) vowed that "We will cover the country, not only for the benefit of the LGBT or the Druze, but for everyone's sake."
"We need to join forces in a fight that has never been more important," said Livni. "Our work will not stop with the parades; the real change will come with new legislation and a profound social and political change."
A few dozen protesters from the far-right anti-assimilation organization Lehava protested nearby. Three were detained by the police earlier.
Police blocked the streets on the parade's route starting at 3pm, as well as several streets leading to the parade route, including Agron, King George from Keren HaYesod to Be'eri, Yitskhak Elkhanan, Shalom Aleichem, Avraham Mapu, Ahad Ha'Am, Azza from Arlozorov to Paris Square, Ha-Rav Avida, HaKeren HaKayemet Le-Israel, and Hahistadrut.
Hundreds of police, Border Police, reinforcements and volunteers were deployed along the parade route to ensure the marchers' safety and maintain order. Police said 2,400 police officers, both in uniform and undercover, were stationed in the area and were aided by observers and special forces units.
Magen David Adom paramedics were already deployed along the parade route, with dozens of ambulances and other MDA vehicles, as well as paramedics on foot, on hand to provide medical help wherever needed.
Yael Friedson, Amir Alon, Yishai Porat and Inbar Tvizer contributed to this story.