Jerusalem Pride Parade takes place with hostage families leading the march

Event promoted with image of fallen soldier Sagi Golan, who became symbol of LGBTQ community when he was killed on Oct. 7 days before his wedding; his fiancé set to deliver address

People taking part in last year's pride parade in Jerusalem, June 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
People taking part in last year's pride parade in Jerusalem, June 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Hostage families led the Jerusalem Pride Parade on Thursday, as the annual march took on a more solemn tone amid the war against Hamas and the ongoing hostage situation.

Channel 12 news reported that participants were expected to don yellow wristbands in honor of the hostages.

While the pride parade has been held in the capital since 2002, city hall has never promoted the event because of the city’s largely conservative population.

This year, however, Omer Ohana, the partner of Maj. Sagi Golan, who was killed fighting Hamas terrorists on October 7, put up billboards of pride flags and photos of Golan in the city.

Ohana was initially not recognized as a bereaved family member after Golan’s death, leading Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to amend the policy to formally include same-sex couples under the laws pertaining to families of fallen IDF soldiers.

The two had been set to marry 13 days after October 7. Ohana is expected to speak at the parade.

Members of Golan’s counterterrorism unit are expected to attend the march as a group in honor of their fallen comrade.

Reserve Captain Sagi Golan (left), who was killed in Be’eri on October 7, 2023, and his fiancé Omer Ohana. (Screenshot)

Other speakers at the event are to include Sheila Weinberg, a member of the Kiryat Tivon local council and the first transgender elected official in Israeli history; Ayala Metzger, the daughter-in-law of hostage Yoram Metzger; Nadav Rudaeff, the son of hostage Lior Rudaeff; and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid.

The parades in Tel Aviv and Haifa were canceled this year because of the war, and the Beersheba parade will be held instead as a rally for “pride and hope.”

In Tel Aviv, the city put up rainbow pride flags on Wednesday with the yellow stripe wider than the other colors, in honor of the hostages.

Despite the cancellations, the Jerusalem LGBTQ community was adamant that the march must go on.

“Unlike other cities, the Jerusalem march is a protest and doesn’t receive backing from city hall,” Jonathan Valfer, chairman of the Jerusalem-based Open House LGBT nonprofit, told Channel 12. “Every year, we need to fight off many forces that try to prevent us from marching in the capital, unlike other cities.

“The march we organized this year is consistent with the situation. We’re LGBT, but first of all we’re Israelis, and our hearts are with the fallen and the hostages,” he said.

The far-right Lehava organization published a video calling for anti-LGBTQ protesters to come to the parade.

“We’re all united in the war, this is not the time for an abomination parade in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is not Sodom, all are invited to protest against the attempt to destroy the city’s dignity,” the organization said.

Lehava leader Benzi Gopstein, a close associate of far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, was sanctioned in April by the US and the EU.

Typically, no more than a few dozen counter-protesters come to the Jerusalem pride parade each year.

People march during the 21st annual Jerusalem Pride Parade on June 1, 2023. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

War broke out between Israel and Hamas following Hamas’s October 7 massacre in which terrorists killed some 1,200 people and kidnapped 252.

It is believed that 121 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive. Hamas is also holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

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