Moral Low Ground


Ultra-Orthodox Jew Yishai Schlissel Stabs 6 at Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade

Yishai Schlissel, who stabbed six people at the annual Jerusalem pride parade July 30, 2015, is seen at the Jerusalem Magistrates' Court on July 31. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yishai Schlissel, who stabbed six people at the annual Jerusalem pride parade July 30, 2015, is seen at the Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court on July 31. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An ultra-Orthodox Jew recently released from prison after stabbing three people at a gay pride parade in Jerusalem in 2005 has struck the same event again, stabbing six participants as they marched on Thursday.

The Jerusalem Post reports two people, including a 17-year-old girl, were seriously injured in the attack by Yishai Schlissel of Modi’in Illit, who was released from prison after serving most of a 12-year sentence for a similar attack at the 2005 Jerusalem Gay Pride parade.

On Thursday, thousands of people were marching joyously down Keren Hayesod Street after beginning the parade in Independence Park when Schlissel lunged into the crowd, ferociously stabbing his victims before being tackled by police.

“I saw an ultra-Orthodox man stabbing everyone in his way,” witness Shai Aviyor told Israel’s Channel 2. “We heard people screaming, everyone ran for cover, and there were bloodied people on the ground.”

“We were near the front and I started seeing a lot of people running,” Yasmin Yusupov, 20, told BBC Newsbeat. “We were near the front and I started seeing a lot of people running. We didn’t realize what happened but I was pulling the friends who were with me to run away. My heart was racing really fast. I could have been walking a few steps faster and it could have been me or anyone I know.”

Israeli media reported that Schlissel wrote and published a letter last week asserting his obligation of Jews to stop the “parade of sin” at all costs. “It is the obligation of every Jew to keep his soul from punishment and stop this giant desecration of God’s name next Thursday,” Schlissel wrote, according to Ma’ariv. He added that gay pride events keep occurring “because of our enormous sins.”

In an interview with an ultra-Orthodox radio station two weeks ago, Schlissel promised to keep fighting against what he considers an abomination.

“The battle is not over,” he said. “Those unclean people want to continue defiling Jerusalem.”

Asked about the coming parade he added, “To protest is an obligation in my opinion, but it is not enough,” vowing “to disperse them (LGBT people), even by force.”

Jerusalem District Police chief Moshe Edri told reporters that authorities did not know Schlissel was attending the event.

“We were prepared for every scenario, but our perimeter was breached,” Edri said. “This is a severe incident, and we will investigate to find out what caused this breach.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack as “a most serious incident.”

“A despicable hate crime was committed this evening in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said. “In Israel everyone, including the gay community, has the right to live in peace, and we will defend that right. I welcome the Israeli religious leadership’s condemnation of this terrible crime, and I call on all those in positions of leadership to denounce this contemptible act. In the name of all of Israelis, I wish the wounded a full and speedy recovery.”

“In the State of Israel, the individual’s freedom of choice is one of the country’s basic values,” Netanyahu added. “We need to ensure that every man and woman in Israel can live in security any way they choose. That is how we acted in the past, and how we will continue to act.”

Netanyahu vowed to “prosecute those responsible to the full extent of the law.”

While Israel is a socially liberal democracy in which LGBT people live openly, there is considerable hostility toward them from Jewish, Christian and Muslim fundamentalists, who view homosexuality as a “sin.” Ultra-Orthodox Jews have repeatedly staged anti-gay demonstrations, including a violent 2009 riot aimed at thwarting that year’s Jerusalem Gay Pride parade.

While Tel Aviv enjoys an international reputation as the most tolerant city in the Middle East and has a thriving LGBT community, Jerusalem, one of the ‘holiest’ cities for all three Abrahamic faiths, is much more conservative and many resident do not approve of homosexuality.

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