An estimated 7,500 people participated in the Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance earlier this month. The march has been organized annually over the past 20 years by Jerusalem Open House, the city’s LGBTQ community center, but was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Director of NIF grantee Aguda – The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel, Ron Shalhavi said that the Jerusalem LGBTQ parade kicked off Pride Month which eventually saw 50 marches and events in cities throughout Israel, including Tel Aviv Gay Pride on June 25, which is one of the world’s largest LGBTQ events.
The march began at Jerusalem’s Liberty Bell Garden and took its traditional 2.5 kilometer route through the city to Independence Park. There were no incidents in Jerusalem this year despite a small anti-gay protest by the Jewish supremacist and extremist organization, Lahava. The event was secured by 3,000 police. In the past, Jerusalem’s pride event has been plagued by violent protests, and a 16 year-old participant, Shira Banki was murdered by an ultra-Orthodox protester in 2015. The following year saw 30,000 Israelis of all kinds marching in Jerusalem. This year a man was arrested the day before the march for allegedly threatening to murder event participants.
The Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance is by no means an exclusively secular event and many of the marchers wore kippot. Shay Bramson, Chairman of the Religious LGBTQ+ Support and Advocacy Group told the Jerusalem Post that he hoped the new government would pass a law banning conversion therapy.
Jerusalem Open House Chairman Noam Yavin said, “After a very difficult year for all of us, in which the need for a space like the Jerusalem Open House was once again proven, we are delighted to march through the streets of our city again with a perfect combination of protest and celebration.”
This new coalition presents an opportunity for progress on LGBTQ issues. Newly appointed Minister of Health, Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz, has said that he plans to eliminate AIDS-era restrictions that bar male homosexuals from donating blood. Right now, the Magen David Adom blood donation form requires male homosexuals to declare that they have not had sexual relations with other men for at least 12 months.