Thousands march through Jerusalem to celebrate first Pride parade in two years

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Thousands march through Jerusalem to celebrate first Pride parade in two years

The parade, the first since coronavirus restrictions were lifted, took place in one of Israel's more conservative cities

Around 8,000 people marched, sang and danced through the streets of Jerusalem on Thursday to mark the city’s first Pride parade since coronavirus restrictions were eased.

Participants held flags, balloons and banners as they celebrated in a city that has seen hostility against the LGBT community in recent years.

There were heavy precautions with 3,000 police officers and other security measures in place ahead of this year’s event, which marked its 20th anniversary this year.

The 2015 parade saw one 16-year-old participant, Shria Banki, stabbed to death by a strictly-Orthodox man.

“I think this is very meaningful because Israel has experienced three really major hate crimes against the LGBT community, two of them here in the gay parade,” said Maya Benbebnishcy, one of the participants.

“So I think this is really significant for all of us, people who came here to support and show solidarity, people who came here because they are part of the community.”

Another participant, Nissim Nakhoum, added: “I think it’s important to be here. This is the capital and we should show people that we are here, that we are present.

“And I think it is very important that we can teach that if there is someone that is afraid to get out of the closet like I was, it is okay, you can be yourself.”

Despite reports of a planned far-right counter demonstration, no major incidents were reported during the parade.

Police said two 17-year-olds were detained after hanging placards with an anti-parade message, while another Jerusalem resident were arrested the day before on suspicion of threatening to kill participants.

The event, held in Jerusalem since 2001, has long been a source of tension between Israel’s predominantly secular majority and the strictly-Orthodox minority who object to public displays of homosexuality.

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