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Thousands Rally in Israel to Protest Antigay Stabbings

Thousands Rally in Israel to Protest Antigay Stabbings

Across Israel, thousands of people took to the streets to protest a week of violence that ended in the death of a teenage girl.

Demonstrations were held Sunday to denounce a vicious terror attack in the capital at the annual pride parade -- allegedly by a Jewish man -- that killed a Palestinian infant and wounded three members of the child's family. The pride parade stabbings left five wounded and killed 16-year-old Shira Banki.

Yishai Schlissel, an Orthodox Jew who was previously convicted of stabbing three people at a Jerusalem pride parade in 2005, was recently released from prison after serving 10 years for the previous attack.

After his release, Schlissel returned to his hometown where he began distributing handwritten pamphlets 'all Jews faithful to God' to risk 'beatings and imprisonment' for the sake of preventing the parade. With the assailant's history of antigay violence and subsequent activities after being released, many Israelis have questioned the police's procedures and policies to protect LGBT citizens.

Thousands attended a previously scheduled rally in Tel Aviv's Meir Park meant to commemorate an attack six years ago on a LGBT youth community center that left two dead and wounded 15 others. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and former Israeli president Shimon Peres attended the rally.

"I cannot believe we have reached such an abyss," Peres said in his speech, according to Ynetnews. "I took before this stage six years ago, mere days after the murders at Barnoar. I am finding it difficult to believe that we are standing on that same stage, once again before the same phenomenon. We have gathered this evening for a war of independence – Israel's independence from insanity and insane people. This is not a disagreement between right and left. This is a profound clash between those with a conscience and those who lack a conscience."

"It is appropriate on this evening to remove the masks. Anyone who calls the pride parade a 'beast parade' should not be surprised when a knife is raised at a 16-year-old old girl. Anyone who incites against Israel's Arab citizens should not be surprised that churches and mosques are set on fire, and that ultimately a baby is burned alive in the middle of the night. We can compromise politically in a democratic country, but we must not compromise morally."

Thousands of citizens also rallied in Jerusalem's Zion Square where Israeli President Reuven Rivlin addressed the crowd. "The flames are spreading in our land, flames of violence, flames of hatred, flames of false, distorted and twisted beliefs. Flames which permit the shedding of blood, in the name of the Torah, in the name of the law, in the name of morality, in the name of a love for the land of Israel," the president said. "Citizens of Israel, a Jewish and democratic Israel, democratic and Jewish Israel, needs a wake-up call today. We will not be zealots. We will not be bullies. We will not become a state of anarchy."

"These flames, which are consuming all of us, cannot be extinguished with weak condemnations," he continued. "These flames cannot be extinguished with solidarity rallies. Not even with this rally. These flames cannot be extinguished with posts on Facebook and statements in the media. These flames cannot be extinguished with repression, denial and disregard. Incitement, ridicule, frivolity, laxity and arrogance of the heart, cannot extinguish the fire, but only allow it to burn stronger, with fervor, to spread in all directions, and permeate all walks of life."

"In order to put out the flames, we need be a much more determined and decisive. We must be thorough and clear; from the educational system, to those who enforce the law, through to the leadership of the people and the country. We must put out the flames, the incitement, before they destroy us all."

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