Thousands pack the streets of Jerusalem to celebrate Pride

Thousands pack the streets of Jerusalem to celebrate Pride

June 3, 2021

Thousands pack the streets of Jerusalem to celebrate Pride after Israel’s swift vaccine roll-out as other marches around the world are scrapped over covid fears

  • Some 7,500 people as estimated to have turned out to celebrate the Pride march in Jerusalem on Thursday
  • Last year’s event, and many others globally, was cancelled amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus
  • There was a heavy security presence at Thursday’s amid fears of extremism and potential clashes with an ultra-right wing counter-demonstration and several arrests were made before the event began

Thousands of people have packed the streets of Jerusalem for the annual Pride march on Thursday.

While the coronavirus pandemic has seen similar marches cancelled elsewhere, Israel’s swift vaccine rollout allowed the mass celebration to go ahead. 

It took place under heavy security over fears of extremism as ultra-right wing groups had called for a counter-demonstration. 

Several people were arrested on suspicion of potential threats prior to the celebration’s start. 

Some 3,000 police officers lined the route and observed the march from atop tall buildings. A number of streets were blocked off for the march as helicopters circled overhead.

Many participants waved rainbow flags, balloons and placards bearing slogans such as ‘Born this Way,’ a reference to a Lady Gaga song of the same title which has become an anthem of self-acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community and others. 

The Times of Israel reported Hebrew media as saying that some 7,500 people took part in the parade on Thursday. 

Thousands of people have packed the streets of Jerusalem for the annual Pride march on Thursday after last year’s event was cancelled due to coronavirus

While the coronavirus pandemic has seen similar marches cancelled elsewhere, Israel’s swift vaccine rollout allowed the mass celebration to go ahead

The march took place under heavy security over fears of extremism as ultra-right wing groups had called for a counter-demonstration. Several people were arrested on suspicion of potential threats prior to the celebration’s start

Some 3,000 police officers lined the route and observed the march from atop tall buildings. A number of streets were blocked off for the march as helicopters circled overhead

Jerusalem’s march was among the first Pride events of 2021, made possible thanks to a swift vaccination campaign. 

Israel’s 2020 celebrations were muted, with its famed gatherings including Tel Aviv’s annual parade scrapped to avoid further spreading of Covid-19. 

The move echoed most municipal decisions worldwide to cancel large Pride events and shift celebrations online. 

A number of marches are back on the global calendar this year, including New York’s, due to take place on June 27. 

Jerusalem has held its annual celebration of LGBTQ+ rights since 2002, often against a backdrop of protests from the ultra-Orthodox community and far-right extremists.  

Many participants waved rainbow flags, balloons and placards bearing slogans such as ‘Born this Way,’ a reference to a Lady Gaga song of the same title which has become an anthem of self-acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community and others

The Times of Israel reported that some 7,500 people took part in the parade on Thursday. Pictured: A participant in Jerusalem’s Pride event takes to the stage

Jerusalem’s march was among the first Pride events of 2021, made possible thanks to a swift vaccination campaign in Israel

Israel’s 2020 celebrations were muted, with its famed gatherings including Tel Aviv’s annual parade scrapped to avoid further spreading of Covid-19

On July 30, 2015, teenager Shira Banki was stabbed to death during the parade by Yishai Shlissel, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, who also wounded six others. 

The annual event has been heavily protected by law enforcement in the years since. 

This year’s celebrations began with a ceremony honouring Banki’s memory. 

Israeli police said they arrested a suspect on Wednesday in central Jerusalem for ‘rampaging around and disturbing public order,’ with reports indicating the man had levelled threats of violence related to Pride events. 

He will remain in custody until Friday, a police spokeswoman told AFP news agency. 

On Thursday morning, police also said that they had arrested two 17-year-old boys for hanging anti-Pride posters in downtown Jerusalem overnight.  

A right-wing advocacy group providing them with legal counsel said the posters included slogans referring to the events as ‘a perversion’.

Jerusalem has held its annual celebration of LGBTQ+ rights since 2002, often against a backdrop of protests from the ultra-Orthodox community and far-right extremists. Pictured: A demonstrator holds a sign bearing lyrics from the musical Hamilton

The throng of Pride revellers hoisting signs with slogans like ‘Queer Revolution’ overwhelmed the city’s streets on Thursday as only a handful of counter-protesters turned out. 

Critics have frequently accused Israel of ‘pinkwashing,’ saying the government exploits LGBTQ+ rights to present a progressive image that distracts from concerns around its treatment of Palestinians and occupation of Palestinian land. 

But for marcher Netta Weiss, 26, Jerusalem’s edition of Pride is essential. She told AFP it was close to the ‘original meaning’ [of Pride] because it’s ‘actually a protest’. 

The first Pride march was held in 1970 in New York to mark the anniversary of the city’s 1969 Stonewall Riots, a landmark event seen as instrumental in sparking the global gay rights movement. 

‘As long as we need so much security, and I need to conceal my flag on the way here because I’m afraid I’m going to get stabbed… it shows how dirty the problem is,’ Weiss said.

Guy Gazit, 18, turned out to Thursday’s Pride festivities for the first time, saying he ‘felt guilty saying I support the community but not really doing anything about it, so I wanted to take a more active role.’

He said his parents voiced concern about his decision to go considering the spectre of violence, but he opted to show up anyway because ‘we can’t just sit by and be passive.’ 

‘It’s a very loving community,’ Gazit said of those attending Pride, a rainbow flag tied at his neck as Born This Way blared in the background.

‘Our ideas are here to stay.’  

Marcher Netta Weiss, 26, told AFP Jerusalem’s Pride was close to the ‘original meaning’ [of Pride] because it’s ‘actually a protest’

The first Pride march was held in 1970 in New York to mark the anniversary of the city’s 1969 Stonewall Riots, a landmark event seen as instrumental in sparking the global gay rights movement. Pictured: Residents watch the march from their windows

A number of marches are back on the global calendar this year, including New York’s, due to take place on June 27. Pictured: Revellers at Jerusalem’s Pride march on Thursday

Many participants waved rainbow flags – the symbol of Pride – the colours of which each hold a specific meaning to the LGBTQ+ rights movement

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