Jerusalem mayor defends decision to skip city’s Pride parade

Thousands of Israelis celebrating gay pride in Jerusalem, Israel. (David Silverman/Getty Images)

Thousands of Israelis celebrating gay pride in Jerusalem, Israel. (David Silverman/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said the city’s Jerusalem Pride parade will take place “without excuses, and without prejudice.”

“The fact that some feel offended by the march does not mean it should not be held,” Barkat said in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, of the march scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

“As Mayor of all the city’s residents, I respect all of its communities, including the LGBT community. Our comprehensive support for the community speaks for itself.  Jerusalem will continue to serve as a beacon of tolerance, compassion, acceptance of the other, and unconditional love,” Barkat said.

The statement was issued hours after the publication of an interview with the mayor in the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Acharonot, in which Barkat said he would not march in the parade “because I don’t want to be part of the harm to the ultra-Orthodox public and the Religious-Zionist public.”

Barkat said that on Thursday he would lay flowers at the site in Jerusalem where 16-year-old Shira Banki was stabbed to death during last year’s march by a haredi Orthodox assailant, who also injured five other marchers. Barkat said he met on Tuesday with Banki’s parents.

Barkat called on the LGBT community to be considerate of the Orthodox communities in the same way that it wants the Orthodox communities to be considerate of it.

“The gay-lesbian community receives services in the city of Jerusalem to its satisfaction. Of course, it’s their right to march. The Jerusalem Municipality, I, and the police are doing everything that we can to facilitate them to realize their right, but they need to know that this hurts others,” Barkat told Yediot Acharonot. “Tolerance is not just letting people march; it’s also looking for the way to get what you want without offending others’ opinions or others’ feelings. In Jerusalem, there’s a large population who has a really hard time with the parade.”

The parade route largely avoids Orthodox areas of the city.

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