Passengers on the Jewish boat at the Amsterdam gay pride parade, Aug. 2, 2014. (Cnaan Liphshiz)
AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Its passengers included celebrities, a rabbi and revelers in biblically themed costumes, but the Jewish boat at Amsterdam’s gay pride parade stood out for more than just its riders.
Following a west-to-east course along the Dutch capital’s Prinsengracht canal on Saturday along with dozens of similarly flamboyant vessels, the Jewish boat was the only one in the parade isolated by police. Two boats with three officers each escorted the ship, while two additional agents sailed aboard the Jewish boat itself.
With increased violence aimed of late at Jews in the Netherlands and across Europe, authorities weren’t taking any chances.
“We’d planned this just to show that we [gay Jews] exist as a community but with all that’s happened, I’m now here to stand up for our rights also as Jews to live as equals without threats by those who want to see Jews or gays silent or dead,” said Gideon Querido van Frank, the Jewish boat’s chief organizer, who boarded the boat wearing a Bronze Age soldier outfit laced with glitter.
As Israel’s military campaign in Gaza has unfolded over the past month, acts of violence and intimidation have risen in Holland, threatening the country’s reputation for tolerance.
In addition to repeated acts of vandalism at the home of a Dutch chief rabbi, police last week confirmed reports that in two separate incidents, a Jewish woman was assaulted for displaying an Israeli flag on her home. One was beaten on the street, while the other had a firebomb and stones hurled at her window.
In The Hague, Muslim extremists twice chanted slogans about killing Jews at demonstrations that featured jihadist symbols, sparking a national debate about limiting freedom of expression because police failed to intervene.
But none of that deterred the 50 people who registered to sail aboard the Jewish boat at the 19th Amsterdam Pride Canal Parade, a world-famous aquatic procession that attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators from across Holland and beyond. If anything, the attacks led passengers to broaden their message of tolerance for gays to include rejection of anti-Semitism and a demand that authorities crack down on hate speech.
Israeli pop singer Dana International, right, dancing on the Jewish boat at the Amsterdam gay pride parade, Aug. 2, 2014. (Cnaan Liphshiz)
The people intimidating Jews are also responsible for “a reversal in the level of acceptance of gay people in the Netherlands,” said Marianne van Praag, a Reform rabbi from The Hague who boarded the boat even though it sailed on Shabbat because she believes that speaking out against hatred of Jews and gays has become “a matter of life and death.”
In some areas of the city, van Praag told JTA, “gay people no longer dare hold hands on the street because they don’t find it safe.”
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