Jerusalem with Pride
By Jonathan Lis and Yair Ettinger, Haaretz Correspondents and The Associated Press
Roughly 3,500 people marched in the much-contested gay pride parade in Jerusalem on Thursday evening, as some 1,500 ultra-Orthodox men and right-wing activists demonstrated against the event.
Some 500 ultra-Orthodox protesters marched along Jaffa Street in the city, in an attempt to intersect the march and confront the participants. Police blocked the demonstrators, however, arresting 12 of them.
"I am demanding my civil rights, including the right to get married and have children," said marcher Guy Frishman, 27. "I want to have rights like every other person."
One man evaded police to approach marchers, yelling: "Filth! Get out of Jerusalem!" He was escorted away by police.
The march took place under heavy guard, with more than 7,000 police officers protecting the participants. The Magen David Adom emergency medical service was expected to deploy 45 ambulances and 200 medical personnel along the parade route.
The number of participants was far less than the 5,000 people the parade’s organizers had believed would take part.
The parade began at the junction of King David Street and Moshe Hess Street and ended in the nearby Liberty Bell Park.
Earlier Thursday, a resident of the ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem was arrested on Jaffa Street in possession of a small improvised explosive device.
Elsewhere in the city, ultra-Orthodox demonstrators set fire to garbage cans in Shabbat Square and disrupted traffic in the area. In Beit Shemesh, two ultra-Orthodox demonstrators were arrested by police.
Parade organizers petitioned the High Court of Justice on Thursday to instruct the Jerusalem municipality to station fire engines and sewage draining vehicles at the site of the post-parade rally, in order to bypass a firefighters’ strike which threatened to bring about the cancellation of the rally.
Six days ago, some 1,500 firefighters went on strike and refused to secure events or grant licenses to businesses. The firefighters said they would not grant a license to the parade organizers.
Right-wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir submitted a petition to the High Court earlier Thursday, citing fire code violations in his call for the cancellation of the parade.
Although the strike did not prevent the marchers from holding the parade, it did result in the cancellation of the post-parade rally.
Police limited the route of the parade, authorizing organizers from the Jerusalem Open House gay rights organization to hold a procession along a stretch of only several hundred yards.
Police began scouring the route on Wednesday, to prevent the possibility of extremists planting explosives or other means of injuring the participants.
The officers selected to participate in the operation had prepared for a wide variety of scenarios, ranging from stabbing attempts to terrorist attacks with multiple casualties.
Two years ago, an ultra-Orthodox demonstrator, Yishai Schlissel, leaped into the parade and stabbed three participants who sustained minor to moderate wounds.
On Wednesday night, 23 ultra-Orthodox demonstrators were arrested and two police officers were hurt in violent protests against the march. The protesters hurled rocks and firebombs at the police officers. Two police cars were damaged and one was set on fire. The police used water cannons to disperse the protests.
Jerusalem also saw demonstrations in Givat Shaul, Mea Shearim, Beit Yisrael and Bait Vagan. On some occasions, protesters threw stones at the police and set fire to garbage canisters. Four officers suffered minor injuries, and seven protesters were arrested. Police also found two dummy explosives, one in Beit Hakerem, the other in Ramot. The fake explosives included notes warning that the dummy bombs would be replaced with real ones unless the parade was canceled.