Repeat offender suspected in ultra-Orthodox stabbing at Jerusalem pride parade

Six people were stabbed at a gay pride parade in Jerusalem earlier today in what appears to be a religiously-motivated attack from a repeat offender.

Israeli police have taken Yishai Shilissel into custody following the attack. Shilissel was released from prison three weeks ago after serving ten years of a twelve year sentence for stabbing gay pride marchers in 2005.

Shilissel had reportedly circulated a threatening letter on Twitter before the march, and had distributed handwritten notes to his neighbors calling on “all Jews faithful to God” to risk “beatings and imprisonment” in order to prevent the parade from taking place. This, combined with frequent ultra-Orthodox protests at gay pride marches, led many to wonder why there wasn’t a greater police presence at the parade to protect marchers. As Aaron Ben-Zev, who attended the march, said to Buzzfeed:

Jerusalem Pride, via Wikimedia Commons

Jerusalem Pride, via Wikimedia Commons

Where were the police? Of course, we won’t let this stop us from marching, but we have to ask, where were the police? Especially when they know the ultra-Orthodox have threatened us in the past…

…I could hear them screaming stuff at us about how we were animals, how god would punish us. I don’t understand how they are allowed to carry on with that kind of incitement.

Police had granted a permit for 30 religious activists to protest the parade today. It is unclear if Shilissel was originally part of that protest, or if he went to the parade on his own.

As Haaretz reported, Shilissel was not tracked following his release, despite the clear danger he posed to Israel’s LGBT community, due to what appears to be a bureaucratic and geographic loophole:

The Judea and Samaria Police District said after the attack that they were not supposed to track Schlissel after his release, even though he resides in their jurisdiction, because his crime was perpetrated in the Jerusalem district.

Israeli politicians on the right were quick to condemn the attack, with Minister Naftali Bennet, head of the nationalist Habayit Hayehudi Party party saying in a statement:

Whoever did it harmed Jewish and moral values, and must be punished with the utmost severity. When events are clarified Israeli society must do some soul searching to understand how it has come to this.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also condemned the attacks, but, unlike opposition leader Isaac Herzog, didn’t explicitly call them a hate crime.

Of the six victims, one woman is in critical condition and two men were moderately wounded. Two men and one woman suffered what are being described as light wounds.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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