Conspicuous police protection surrounded the thousands of people who joined this year’s Israeli gay pride event, following last August's attack on a Tel Aviv LGBT community centre.
For more than a decade, Israel’s LGBT community has celebrated gay pride in the country’s capital, with a week of events leading to an annual march through the streets of Tel Aviv. And this year, organisers planned their biggest event yet.
The “Tel Aviv Pride 2010” Facebook page states: “Every June for the last 11 years, the gay community in Israel celebrates gay pride in the streets of Tel Aviv. The city of Tel Aviv is bedecked in the rainbow colors for a week with the pride flag weaving from the flagpole all over the city. This year the 11th of June will be the highlight of Tel Aviv's pride month, with the biggest parade ever.”
This year’s pride has been held in the shadow of the killing, last August, of a man and a woman while they were attending a Tel Aviv LGBT community centre. On 1 August, 2009, an unidentified masked gunman entered the building in the heart of the city and shot dead a 17-year-old woman and 26-year-old man, and injured many more people before escaping. Most of the victims were in their teens.
According to Earth Times, this weekend’s event saw “hundreds of police officers, border-patrol officers and volunteers securing the area”, but Mickey Rosenfeld said, “their presence was equal in size to that of previous years [and they had] received no special intelligence warnings indicating that ultra-right or ultra-religious activists would try to disturb the march”.
Writing on the city’s municipal website prior to the march, Yaniv Weizman – who is the gay community liaison to Mayor Ron Huldai – said: “This year, the challenge of the community at the pride event is huge. On the one hand, we need to send out a clear message that no murderer will push us back into the closet and we will continue to march through the city with our heads held high. On the other, we need to remember the killed and the (2009) hate crime.”
Weizman is also president of Israel’s gay-youth organisation, IGY, which is financed through a combination of national and local government funding. Following the attack in 2009, he told the UK-based Independent newspaper that the LGBT community benefitted from the liberality in Tel Aviv:
Israel is a great place to raise gay children. They have role models, singers, politicians; the television is very gay. IGY is for young people to see the world through pink glasses.
Before August, most people only saw the gay community at Pride celebrations – half-naked, dancing on cars. Then they saw the demonstration [after the shooting] with 50,000 people, the President [Shimon Peres]. Now they know being gay is about more than just dancing.
Saturday’s march started with a minute’s silence in honour of the two people who died and those who were injured in the shooting.