Tens of thousands join Pride parade in Jerusalem

Netanyahu’s government, made up of right-wing and religious parties, has several openly homophobic members

Some 30,000 people marched through the centre of Jerusalem on Thursday in the city’s LGBTQ+ Pride parade, which this year took on a distinctive political tone.

Participants, including religious teenagers wearing knitted skullcaps, waved Israeli and gay flags side by side as a group of mothers with T-shirts reading “everyone needs a parent’s love” hugged marchers.

The US and German ambassadors to Israel participated in the march.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid, addressing the crowd, said: “In Israel there is not one fight for democracy and a separate fight for LGBTQ+ rights. It’s the same struggle against the same enemy.”


Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government, made up entirely of right-wing and religious parties, has a number of openly homophobic members. The LGBTQ+ community, fearing an attack on civil rights if the judiciary is weakened, makes up a significant element of the ongoing weekly antigovernment protests.

The fact that the community feels so threatened led to the biggest ever turnout for the annual Jerusalem march, which always pales in comparison to the massive carnival atmosphere of the annual march in Tel Aviv, considered Israel’s gay capital.

The Jerusalem Pride march has always been controversial in this conservative city, the spiritual centre of Israel’s powerful religious orthodox community. At the 2015 parade, an ultra-Orthodox man stabbed Shira Banki, a 16-year-old girl, to death and wounded several others.

The leaders of two far-right parties in Mr Netanyahu’s coalition in the past led the counter protest against the event. National security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and finance minister Bezalel Smotrich once joined forces with others to organise a “beast parade” ahead of the event, placing farm animals along the route, in order to illustrate what they claimed were parallels between homosexuality and bestiality. Mr Ben-Gvir and others called for a “holy war” against the “abomination” of the parade.

This year, Mr Ben-Gvir oversaw the police operation around the march – a fact that prompted some gay and lesbian leaders to urge Mr Netanyahu to intervene and assume personal responsibility for policing the event. He refused and Mr Ben-Gvir was on hand Thursday as some 2,000 police officers were deployed to ensure the march passed peacefully.

“We are fully prepared. I don’t want the participants to be harmed,” he said, adding. “My policy is to grant freedom of speech even to those who are against it, as long as they do not violate the law. That is democracy.”

Some participants responded with shouts of “Shame” and “Nazis out” at the far-right minister.

The small counter protest, away from the route of the march, attracted a few hundred people, with the demonstrators holding banners against the LGBT+ community.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem