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Orthodox Jews protested against the march

Approximately 20,000 Israelis took part in Jerusalem’s gay pride event under tight-knit police protection. The march line extended over two kilometers and imported elements of LGBT community protests concerning a new law which excluded gay men from having surrogate children. The protests were also directed against the present ruling government, with many activist participants asking Prime Minister Netanyahu to resign. They protested against the nation-state law which came into effect in July, which many critics claim discriminates against minorities.

The bulk of the crowd was composed of young Israelis, listening to the many speeches given and the musical performances conducted in Liberty Bell Park of Jerusalem prior to the start of the march. The Israeli police have kept a strict watch on the crowd, with parade participants compulsorily having to pass through two security layers. Many of those present are searched and questioned prior to permitting them to join the parade.

Organizers distributed flowers to the marchers to commemorate the memory of Shira Banki, a 16-year-old killed by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man who objected to her publicly displaying her homosexuality. Banki was knifed to death during the 2015 march. Demonstrators chanted her name as they walked through the Keren Hayesod street. They quieted down as they reached the place where she was murdered. Many placed flowers in front of her picture placed on the road.

The parade was closely observed and guarded by the Jerusalem police, with about 2,500 officers deployed along the rote. The list included plainclothes officers and border police infiltrating the crowd. This heightened security was the result of the Banki stab attack. Roni Alsheich, the Israel Police Commissioner, said that the job of the police is to ensure that every march participant can express what he or she wants to say. Another goal is to make sure that such horrific incidences do not get repeated. Vehicular traffic was closed on the roads making up the march route. Participants carried rainbow stickers, slogan-bearing signs, and rainbow flags.

It is inevitable that not everyone was happy with the march. Orthodox rabbis held a counterprotest-attended by a few people- to demand what they term “normal country”. The ultra-conservative Lehava organization, headed by Bentzi Gopstein, branded LGBT community members “terrorists” in his online video. The right-wing organization also made the claim that plainclothes police officers embedded within the protesters arrested one of their members. His claim was denied by a police spokesperson.

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