Thousands rally for tolerance and unity in wake of extremist attacks

Thousands of Israelis took to public squares in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and elsewhere over the weekend, to demonstrate their support for tolerance and rejection of hatred following two deadly hate crimes last week which shocked the country.

On Thursday afternoon, an ultra-Orthodox man stabbed six people at the Jerusalem gay pride march. Yesterday, a 16-year-old victim succumbed to her wounds and died. Hours later during the night, two homes in the Palestinian West Bank village of Duma were set ablaze, killing an 18-month-old baby and injuring his family. Racist graffiti found at the site of the attack indicates that it was carried out by Jewish Israeli extremists.

Israeli politicians from across the political spectrum swiftly and thoroughly condemned the attacks and many joined the public demonstrations on Saturday night. In Jerusalem’s Zion Square, President Reuven Rivlin addressed a rally, warning that “The flames are spreading in our land, flames of violence, flames of hatred, flames of false, distorted and twisted beliefs.” He added, “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.”

Meanwhile, in Tel Aviv, two demonstrations took place. In Rabin Square, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, former-President Shimon Peres, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and opposition leader Isaac Herzog were among the speakers, who also included the uncle of the baby killed in Duma. Herzog said, “Terrorists are terrorists, period. Whether Jewish terrorists or Muslim. The Jewish people are ashamed of the deeds committed by members of our people.” A second event then took place at Gan Meir Park, in solidarity with the LGBT community, where Education Minister Naftali Bennett was among the speakers. A recorded message from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the Jerusalem attack as “an attack on all of our children.”

Meanwhile, demonstrations also took place in other cities including Haifa and Beer Sheva.

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