Gay groups irked at Tourism Ministry spin on pride parade

LGBT organization toys with canceling Tel Aviv event after NIS 11 million invested on visitors, rainbow paint for plane

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Men wave rainbow flags at the Annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, June 12, 2015 (Flash90/Gili Yaari)
Men wave rainbow flags at the Annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, June 12, 2015 (Flash90/Gili Yaari)

Israeli gay groups have talked of canceling the upcoming annual Tel Aviv gay pride parade in protest of a government plan to invest NIS 11 million (almost $3 million) in encouraging tourism to the event despite not doing enough, they said, to promote the rights of the local community.

The recently announced Tourism Ministry budget includes a plan to paint an airplane flying tourists for the parade to Israel with the rainbow colors of the gay community.

Leaders of the Agudah – The Israel National LGBT Task Force met on Saturday night with Tel Aviv city council members Yaniv Waizman and Efrat Tolkowsky to discuss the situation, Channel 2 reported Sunday.

Agudah co-chair Imri Kalman said that Israel is lagging behind other Western countries in terms of gay rights.

“Unlike the gay communities around the world who achieved historic achievements, the gay community of Israel had one of its worse years,” he said. “Murder at the Jerusalem parade, many bills did not make it past the ministerial committee [for legislation] and the plenum, violence and inciting comments from MKs and a government minister.”

Last July Yishai Shlissel stabbed Shira Banki, 16, at the Jerusalem gay pride parade. The ultra-Orthodox attacker had just been released from jail for a similar offense in 2005. Banki succumbed to her wounds three days later.

“In response to the community’s demand to increase the budget that was sent three weeks ago to the Prime Minister’s Office and the finance minister, we got in return a painted plane,” Kalman continued. “At the moment we are holding consultations with the relevant people and weighing our options, among them canceling the parade.”

The event has become one of Tel Aviv’s most popular annual festivals and last year an estimated 180,000 participants took part including 30,000 tourists, many of whom came to Israel especially in order to participate in the parade, according to officials.

However, Tolkowsky said that despite the grievances the parade, scheduled for June 3, was still on.

“The parade will be held as planned, the municipality will not cancel the parade. The municipality is glad that the Tourism Ministry picked up the gauntlet and invested an unprecedented budget in the parade, and hope that other ministries will do the same.”

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