Last Friday Tel Aviv’s annual LGBT+ Pride parade took place as it has done every year since 1998. An estimated 250,000 marched in the parade, which was the biggest in the entire Middle East, though, given our neighbours, I can’t imagine there was strong competition for this title.
I am one person and do not claim to represent the entirety of the LGBT+ Israeli population, which is as varied as any other population. I should be clear that I am in total and full support of any and every LGBT+ Pride event in the country. For me as an openly gay man, to walk around cities in Israel and see rainbow flags flying in central areas, is a sign to me that I matter, that you see me and that my voice is heard. It makes me feel valued as a citizen who pays taxes and proudly served in the IDF.
But the amount of poisonous LGBT+phobia that has appeared recently on Facebook both in Hebrew other languages makes me weep for the Jewish People and for the State of Israel. Particularly in Hebrew, by average ‘normal’ people.
And this is why I think we need to talk about Tel Aviv Pride.
We need to talk about Tel Aviv Pride because it’s not the only LGBT+ Pride event that took/takes/will take place in Israel this year. No, I hope that there will be even more pride events in 2019. In fact, I’m sure there will be.
We need to talk about Tel Aviv Pride because it is fun and beautiful and a day of total freedom. The event has lost most of its political message in my opinion, though. So has Pride in many major cities in the world; and as such, that doesn’t bother me much. What bothers me a lot though is the LGBT+ youth in Afula and Beit Shan, Eilat and Metula. Because in those areas, far from the rainbows and freedom of Tel Aviv, LGBT+ youth are kicked out of their homes when they come out, they are relentlessly bullied in schools, and homophobia is institutionalised and acceptable.
A stone’s throw from Tel Aviv in Kfar Saba, the municipality received so many complaints from specific communities, that they told the organisers of the first Pride event in the city that they would need to fund the building of a wall along parts of routes of the parade. In order to prevent people who do not want to see the parade from doing so as well as private security for the event. Only after a lawyer form Israel’s LGBT Taskforce issued a complaint to the Supreme Court did this nonsense end.
Today brings us news from Givatayim, which is so close to the “LGBT Heaven of Tel Aviv” that as far as many of us are concerned, it essentially IS Tel Aviv. A young person took down flags that had been hung on a café by it’s management and proceeded to set them on fire. The police have opened an investigation into the matter — they know who it is because it was all caught on camera — but as we are speaking about a minor, nothing will happen.
We need to talk about Tel Aviv Pride because thousands upon thousands of tourists descended on the city and brought with them millions of pink dollars which they spent in hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs etc. But at the same time not only is homophobia absolutely rife in the country, whilst the government does nothing to combat it; we LGBT+ Israelis are second-class citizens barred from many of the rights that our heterosexual family and friends are automatically granted.
I need to leave the ancestral homeland of my foremothers to enjoy those rights.
We need to talk about Tel Aviv Pride because it is the beginning of the beginning of the struggle and not the end.