Gay Pride month is taking place around the world, and Israel is abuzz with rainbow flags and shows of love. The annual Jerusalem Pride Parade took place on Thursday, June 6, where over 10,000 people showed to support equality and LGBTQ rights in Israel’s complex capital city. Marchers were accompanied by about 2,500 police officers, who were on high alert to protect the crowds. In Jerusalem, the Pride parade brings controversy due to the extreme religious tendencies of many residents who do not believe that homosexuality, or other shades within the sexuality spectrum, is a human right.
In 2005, an Orthodox extremist man stabbed several people at the Jerusalem Pride Parade. He was jailed and released a decade later in 2015, yet he chose to return to the same event and stabbed 16-year old parade goer, Shira Banki. This year, 49 people were said to be detained by the police for their desire to disturb the event, and 150 protesters showed up to oppose such liberal ideas as freedom of love.
Uri Banki, father of Shira, marched in the parade in her memory, and “also to support tolerance in Israel. Tolerance is something that is easy for us to demand from others and much harder to sustain ourselves.”
From the high tensions in Jerusalem to a more accepted air, Tel Aviv Pride Week has commenced in full force. Gay pride is a year-round commonality on the streets of Tel Aviv, yet the energetic high seems to be elevated this week, in preparation for the largest pride event in the Middle East and Asia.
The city is scattered with various events such as a free historical LGBTQ tour, art exhibits, parties, concerts, a transgender Shabbat dinner, and hundreds of rising rainbow signage directly ensuring that “we are gay friendly.” All events point to the highlight of the week, the Pride Parade, taking place on Friday, June 14. This year the parade will feature Neta Barzilai, last year’s Eurovision Winner, as well as include this year’s “foreign pride ambassador” Neil Patrick Harris.
Last year about 250,000 people joined the Pride Parade, including international visitors, and this year the same number are expected. Major preparations include color, glitz and glitter for a massive celebration of love, and freedom of expression.