Jerusalem hosts its largest Pride March, pays tribute to slain teen

With 25,000 in attendance from across Israel, the 15th Annual Jerusalem Pride March, which occurred July 21, 2016, was the city’s largest yet.

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The parade stood in stark contrast to last year’s tragedy, when six people were stabbed by Yishai Schlissel, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish assailant. Shira Banki, 16, later died from her wounds.

The march is organized each year by the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance ( JOH ). The organization serves the city’s diverse LGBTQ communities. Pride organizers worried that people might stay away because of fear of another attack. In fact, Schlissel was accused of planning a new plot from prison to harm the march. However, undeterred marchers came out in droves, as this year’s parade was five times larger than last year’s.

“The march was better than we could have ever hoped for,” said organizer Noam Eyal. “Jerusalem really needed this. It’s a message to any future attacker that if you try something like this, it will backfire.”

Eyal should know. He was one of the six people stabbed last year. “I was number two stabbed. Shira Banki was number three. I didn’t know her, we just happened to be standing next to each other,” Eyal said.

“The events of last year’s march caught us off guard,” said Tom Canning, the development director at the Jerusalem Open House. “We thought the violence couldn’t happen, but it did.” Canning explained that while the LGBT community is accepted in the liberal neighborhoods of Tel Aviv, discrimination and homophobia still exist throughout the Israel.

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