Some 5,000 people took part in Thursday's Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, which also marked a decade since the first such parade was held in the city. To celebrate the milestone, participants marched along the original route taken in the first parade.
The route had to be changed after the 2005 parade, when two people were stabbed by an ultra-Orthodox man. This incident was followed by several other acts of violence against the gay community, namely the deadly shooting at the Barnoar gay youth center in Tel Aviv. Jerusalem police had not allowed participants to use that part of the route since 2005, with the parade moved to an area that is easier for them to secure.
The parade has been free of violence in recent years, and ultra-Orthodox communities have apparently decided to turn a blind eye to the parade, rather than stir up trouble over it, and so police allowed the organizers to revert to the original route this year.
The parade began at Independence Park, where participants commemorated three years to the Barnoar shooting. The parade then moved through the city center, ending at Liberty Bell Park. Hundreds of police officers were dispatched to secure the event.
In the early hours of Thursday morning, several youths were seen spray-painting the "Welcome to Jerusalem" sign at the entrance to the city in the rainbow colors of the Gay Pride flag. People entering the city had a glimpse of the sign's new look for a few hours until municipal employees eventually cleaned off the graffiti. Police officials said they were taking the incident seriously and were looking for the perpetrators.
The Executive Director of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, Elinor Sidi, condemned the vandalism and said, "The Open House opposes violence, including violence against public property."
While the parade passed without violence, a counter-demonstration was held in the capital's Sabbath Square (Kikar Shabbat) in Jerusalem, attended by hundreds of ultra-Orthodox men.
"It is a disgrace that such a thing is held in the holy city of Jerusalem. They should have those parades in Tel Aviv. Such defilement should not be brought to Jerusalem," one haredi protester said. Right-wing activists, including Baruch Marzel, were among the demonstrators, and brought along three donkeys with signs on their backs saying "Gay donkeys," an apparent reference to the Biblical prohibition on both sodomy and bestiality.