Exactly a year ago, Yishai Schlissel stepped out of a supermarket and went on a stabbing rampage during the Pride parade, wounding seven people and killing Shira Banki
, a 16-year-old girl who was there to support her friends.
Schlissel, 40, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, had just been released from prison for stabbing marchers at Jerusalem's Gay Pride parade a decade before that. For his latest crimes, he was sentenced to life in prison
and ordered to pay restitution to his victims.
Banki's parents urged LGBT supporters to attend this year's parade, officially called the Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance, which will take place Thursday evening through the streets of the city.
"Marching in Jerusalem's Pride march is not just about showing support to the LGBT community, it is also about supporting ideas of tolerance and equality for all. To us it also means standing in resistance to violence as a way of solving any dispute or argument," Uri and Mika Banki wrote on their Facebook page.
Police have taken unprecedented steps to protect this year's parade, including adding hundreds of extra officers along the parade route and security checks for everyone who wants to join the parade. In addition, undercover officers and border police will patrol the route.
"We learned the lessons from last year's gay parade," said Jerusalem District Police Spokesman Doron Ben-Amo. "Nobody will be allowed to go into the parade with weapons."
Controversy surrounding the Pride march in Jerusalem stands in stark contrast to Tel Aviv's Pride week, held each year in early June. Tel Aviv, considered one of the world's most welcoming cities for the LGBT community, hosts hundreds of thousands of locals and tourists for the week.
But in marching through the streets of Jerusalem, a largely religious city, the Pride parade has exposed deep rifts within Israel's Jewish community. Last week, Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, the founder of a pre-military academy in the West Bank, repeatedly referred to gays as "perverts"
in a speech in Jerusalem.
Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon criticized the comments at a conference in Tel Aviv, saying, "The very fact that this is the dialogue from someone who educates points to radicalization. There has to be soul-searching from the academy heads and the heads of the community."
Jerusalem's secular Mayor Nir Barkat, meanwhile, told Yedioth Ahronoth, an Israeli daily newspaper, that he would not be marching in the parade "because I don't want to be part of something that offends the Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) public and the national-religious public."
Left-wing politicians blasted Barket for his comments.
MK Merav Michaeli
tweeted, "Between Shira Banki and Yishai Schlissel, Nir Barkat chooses Yishai Schlissel."
"A year ago, a girl was murdered in your city, Barkat. Somehow the sensitivity of the religious public does not appear to me to be the most pressing thing you have to worry about," wrote MK Zehava Gal-On.
Responding to the criticism, Barkat said he would attend a memorial at the site where Shira Banki was murdered.
"It's no secret that there are people who are hurt by the parade, but that does not mean that we will not the parade take place. The parade will take place in Jerusalem without excuses and without bias," he posted on his Facebook page
A week before the Jerusalem parade, the city of Beer Sheva in southern Israel rerouted the first-ever Pride parade there to avoid the city's main road, citing security concerns. In protest, organizers canceled the parade in the conservative city, instead protesting outside Beer Sheva's City Hall.