The Israeli city of Beersheba held its first Pride parade this week, drawing more than 3,500 participants, as well as well-known performers like Ania Bukstein and Margalit Tzan'ani.
While the vibe was celebratory, there was also a strain of resistance, both against homophobia and the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians: Demonstrator carried banners reading "no Pride in occupation" and "We fuck each other in the ass so that no new soldiers are born."
Two ultra-Orthodox men were detained during Thursday's celebration, reports The Times of Israel—one was found with a knife near the parade, while the other tried to enter the procession forcibly. Last week, police also arrested a 17-year-old for posting on Facebook, “Soon there will be an attack on the first ever gay Pride parade in Beersheba.”
Fortunately, the event went on peacefully, with police, border guards, and volunteers protecting the crowds.
The largest city in southern Israel, Beersheba is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. In the modern era, it's become a hub for Israel's aerospace and electronics industries. Previously, smaller, private Pride events have been organized, often at a youth center.
Last year, organizers canceled the parade when a court ruling barred them from marching through Rager Boulevard, the main thoroughfare, citing the threat of violence.
While Israel is seen as a gay-friendly oasis in the Middle East, the existence of religious extremists within the Jewish community has led to violent clashes. Earlier this month, a man was arrested for allegedly threatening Tel Aviv Pride, the country's largest LGBT celebration. The unnamed 20-year-old, a member of an ultra-Orthodox sect, wrote a post on Facebook asking “Who’s coming with me to carry out a terror attack at the Pride march?”
In 2015, Yishai Schlissel, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, knife attack on Jerusalem Pride, injuring six people and killing 16-year-old Shira Banki. Schlissel had just completed a 10-year prison sentence in connection with a similar attack on a 2005 Pride celebration.