Queers in Seattle’s Israeli sister city rallied at City Hall to party and protest police decision to forbid community from marching down main street
By David Sheen
Over a thousand Queer activists united for a Pride party and protest outside Beersheba City Hall in southern Israel Thursday evening to demonstrate against a decision by local police and the country’s High Court to forbid what would have been the city’s first Pride parade from marching down a main street.
Instead of agreeing to follow a police-approved route through side streets of Seattle’s Israeli sister city, protestors assembled at the Beersheba municipality and chanted, “Homophobia begins in the corridors of the [national] government! Homophobia begins in the corridors of municipal government!”
Earlier in the week, Beersheba police announced that they would not approve plans by the city’s Queer community to march down central Rager Boulevard after local Jewish religious leaders, including the city’s Chief Rabbi, objected to the idea. Police also said that they had learned of credible threats to attack the paraders.
The day before the parade was scheduled to take place, LGBT activists petitioned Israel’s High Court to overrule the police decision to forbid the community from marching down Rager. After the High Court ruled against the petition, activists resolved instead to turn the planned parade into a protest.
In a large lot opposite Beersheba City Hall just before sunset, Pride partiers and protestors gathered to socialize, listen to music and cheer on speeches by community activists. Rallygoers celebrated LGBT lifestyles and castigated homophobes with catchy protest slogans that rhyme in Hebrew, such as, “Don’t tell me what’s normal, I’ll fuck whoever I feel like!”
At last year’s Pride parade in Jerusalem, a homophobic ultra-Orthodox Jewish man stabbed several participants, killing a teenage girl, Shira Banki. Some in the Israeli queer community put partial blame for the stabbings on Israeli police, since the stabber had also stabbed Jerusalem Pride paraders a decade previously, and had only recently been released from jail over the crime.
Writing today in the liberal Israeli daily Ha’aretz, Israel Democracy Institute vice-president Mordecai Kremnitzer characterized the High Court’s decision as “rewarding this act of thuggery with another major achievement.” He noted that while police wouldn’t allow Queers to parade down a Beersheba main street, they often permit and protect provocative marches by Jewish ultra-nationalists through Palestinian neighborhoods and towns.
David Sheen is an independent journalist originally from Toronto, Canada and now based in Dimona, Israel. His website is davidsheen.com and he tweets from @davidsheen.
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