Police have given the okay for anti-LGBT demonstrators to protest Jerusalem Pride on Thursday, two years after a 16-year-old was murdered by a religious zealot at the same event.
Dozens of members of Lehava, an ultra-right-wing Jewish sect, will stand under police guard several hundred meters away from paradegoers. Their banners will read “Don’t give them children,” a reference to the ongoing debate on same-sex adoption in Israel.
Lehava leader Bentzi Gopstein issued a YouTube video this week encouraging people to join their protest, wit a slogan that read “Jerusalem Is Not Sodom! Don’t Give Them Kids!”
“There’s no reason to proudly walk the streets of the city [and say] ’Yes, we’re perverts!'” Gopstein said. “There’s no pride in marching through the center of the city and saying ’We’re failures! We can’t resist our urges!'”
In 2015, Yishai Schlissel, an ultra-orthodox Jew, stabbed several participants at Jerusalem Pride, shrieking that he was on a mission from God. One victim, 16-year-old Shira Banki, died from her injuries.
Schlissel had just completed a 10-year prison sentence for attacking participants at the 2005 Jerusalem Pride parade. (He is now serving a life sentence.)
Lehava insists its demonstration will be “humanitarian,” though the group has been labeled a terror organization for its sometimes violent opposition to interfaith relationships, Israeli Arabs, and LGBT people.
The Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance been plagued by opposition since it started in 2001, including attempts to ban it by opponents who cite “the special sensitive nature of the city.”
It’s generally a lower-key event than the much larger Tel Aviv Pride, which draws more than 200,000 people. ￼Last year’s Jerusalem Pride, held in honor of Banki, drew some 30,000 attendees but organizers only expect about 4,000 people this year.
Spanning from Independence Park to Liberty Bell Park, the march will carry the theme of “Religion and LGBTQ.”
“The religious world has made unprecedented progress in its attitude toward the LGBTQ community and its members who belong to both worlds,” the Jerusalem Open House said in a statement. “On the other hand, we still witness year after year insulting, offensive and even inflammatory remarks coming from various fronts in the religious world—Jewish, Christian and Muslim.”
The statement went on to lament Banki’s death, claiming that murder “is never a religious act. Never a Jewish act.”
“Our message is clear,” it read. “Either they will advance or remain behind on the other side of history, a history which we plan to make in Jerusalem this coming August.”