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Jerusalem’s Mayor to Skip Gay Pride Parade as Police Up Security Ahead of Event

Michael Schlissel has been detained on suspicion of planning an attack on Thursday’s Jerusalem gay pride parade. Last year, his brother stabbed a 16-year-old girl to death there.

Jesse Bernstein
July 20, 2016
Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images
Yishai Shlissel (C) is escorted by policemen into a Jerusalem district courtroom, June 26, 2016. Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images
Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images
Yishai Shlissel (C) is escorted by policemen into a Jerusalem district courtroom, June 26, 2016. Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images

Michael Schlissel—an Israeli man whose brother, Yishai, was recently sentenced to life in prison for stabbing 16-year-old girl Shira Banki to death at last year’s pride parade in Jerusalem—was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of planning an attack on this year’s parade, scheduled to take place on Thursday.

According to The Times of Israel, Michael Schlissel’s mother and four other brothers were banned from the city after being questioned by police. Jerusalem police have filed for permission to hold Schlissel until the conclusion of the parade.

Security has tightened drastically in light of last year’s failings, when Yishai Schlissel was able to gain access to the parade despite having been released just weeks prior after serving a previous a ten-year prison sentence for a prior attack on parade-goers, back in 2005. This year, all participants in the parade will be subject to a security check “and anyone attempting to disrupt the march will be dealt with firmly,” said Jerusalem District Police Commander Yoram Halevi.

Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat caused a firestorm when he told Yedioth Ahronoth that he would not be participating in this year’s parade so as not to offend religious people. Said Barkat:

It is their right to march. The city of Jerusalem, myself and the police will do everything possible to allow them to enjoy that right. But they must know that it offends others. Tolerance means not only permitting people to march but also to find the way for them to do so without hurting the sensibilities or the feelings of others.

Barkat’s comments come on the heels of comments from senior IDF rabbi Yigal Levinstein, who condemned the army for allowing “perverts” (i.e., LGBT Israelis) into their ranks, saying, “There’s a crazy movement here of people who have just lost the normalcy of life, and this group is driving an entire country crazy.” Levinstein was roundly criticized by senior government officials, including Barkat. However, Barkat, citing his position as “mayor of everyone, who respects all the communities of Jerusalem,” will not attend the parade, but rather said that he would “personally go to the place where Shira Banki, may her memory be blessed, was murdered, and will place a flower.”

In spite of Barkat’s vocal support for the right of the LGBT community to hold their parade, Jerusalem residents have reported what they see as an attempt by the municipal government to distance themselves from the parade. Wrote Tablet contributor Elhanan Miller in a piece published this week about gay pride in Jerusalem:

…But in stark contrast to Tel Aviv, the LGBT community’s cooperation with city hall remains an uphill battle. For years, the organization has been fighting the municipality in court for adequate funding, and still receives no municipal support for the annual parade. In 2005, it took the supreme court to force city hall to hang rainbow flags along the route of the parade.

Canning [a local LGBT leader] would like to see Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat act more like his Tel Aviv counterpart, Ron Huldai, and attend his city’s parade for the first time—or at least visit the Open House, [a community center] located some 100 yards from his office. “We want a city hall that is proud of us, that embraces as, that views us as part of the development plan for this city,” he said. “The parade is nowhere to be found on the municipal website or on street billboards.”

The U.S. Consulate in Israel has issued a warning to Americans planning on attending the parade, telling citizens to “exercise caution and to be aware that gatherings of large crowds can be a target for criminals, terrorists, and individuals motivated by nationalistic and political beliefs.”

Jesse Bernstein is a former Intern at Tablet.