See me up there? That guy on the left with the grey shirt, orange shorts, tzitzit, and pride flag sticking out of his backpack? That’s me looking pretty bored at my first terror attack.
After work I came in from central Israel to attend the march on my own. I grew up in Jerusalem and felt it was important to stand by my city and by the values I l believe in.
The only pride parades I’ve attended have both been in Tel Aviv. The last one being a month prior to the Jerusalem one was fresh in my mind. Over 150,000 people were estimated to have been there. The vibe in Tel Aviv was just as expected; club music everywhere, beach clad men and women, parents with their children enjoying the party, youths on balconies spraying the people down below with water. Aside from the rainbow flags and the banners, there was little to discern it between a pride parade and a wonderful street party.
And then the Jerusalem parade.
In Tel Aviv the entire city turns rainbow for weeks before.
In Jerusalem I walked to the parade with my Israeli Pride Flag facing downwards in my bag with the handle sticking out afraid of being harassed verbally or physically by people around me. I only turned the flag right-side up when I got to the park the parade was starting.
The first thing I noticed was how few people were there. I got there and only knew I was in the right place because of the tens of police cars. I found a tree to sit under and read waiting for the parade to begin. I mingled a bit; spoke with some people (you know that stock photo Haaretz puts whenever they talk about a gay topic? That’s my kippa clip I lent the guy).
The second most noticeable thing was the lack of music. One speaker started blaring right in the front of the parade, but it was barely heard unless you were right up to it. In Tel Aviv we were dancing down the street. In Jerusalem we were walking straight-faced. Tel Aviv was celebrating gay acceptance in the Gay Capital of the world. In Jerusalem we were marching at a civil-rights march.
Then I heard screams.
People who have been in such incidents know exactly the noise that I heard. It’s a chaotic mass of yellings and confusion. Absolutely nothing coherent, but with a very clear message.
My first instinct was to run. I’m not sure if I’m happy with my decision to run, but that’s just what happened. After about 10 seconds of looking behind me, hopping barriers, and running away from the screams I stopped, turned around, and ran towards it.
Again; I’m not sure if I’m happy with that decision.
I remember the splatters of blood.
I remember the woman lying on the floor with her bloody legs. I force myself to believe that the woman I have ingrained in my mind wasn’t Shira Banki, the girl who died from her wounds. I’d like to think the woman I saw survived.
I remember hugging a crying stranger.
I remember one woman, who was directly attacked by the terrorist, yelling in a craze about religious people. “Religious! Religious!”. I thought it’d be a good time to stick up for The Religious, especially being one of the few openly religious people at the march. After a short scuffle of words, her crazed yells continued.
Schlissel was dragged off, and the parade was allowed to continue.If I thought it was a serious march before, it was more so now. No music. Barely any noise. Just marching and sounds of sobbing.
(I was approached by a reporter at this point. My interview is in the video and the quiet parade can be seen in the background)
We got to the end of the march where there was a stage set up for a concert. In lieu of the concert there were speeches. Sad and somber to fit the mood. I was off to the side talking to friends who called me to make sure I was okay.
I sat listening for a bit. I remember there was a Rabbi there that spoke. I remember the pride I felt that he was speaking now.
I left a bit early. As I left the area where the speeches were, I made sure to turn my pride flag inside out so I can walk safely in the streets of Jerusalem.