Jerusalem Pride parade to march for hostages’ release, LGBTQ rights

Organizers say ‘Born to be Free’ banner symbolizes both the struggle to free captives held since October 7 and gay rights — ‘the demand for freedom and a safe life for everyone’

Thousands take part in the annual Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, on June 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Thousands take part in the annual Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, on June 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

This year’s Jerusalem’s Pride and Tolerance March will gather under the slogan “Born to be Free,” combining a call for the release of 132 hostages held by Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip to its customary rally in support of LGBTQ rights.

Unlike Tel Aviv, which canceled its flagship pride parade in the shadow of the war, the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance has announced it will still hold its traditional march on May 30.

The event is being organized in cooperation with the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, the main organization representing families of captives.

“The shared slogan symbolizes the fundamental values of both the struggle for the hostages’ return and the Pride and Tolerance March — the demand for freedom and a safe life for everyone,” organizers said in a statement on Thursday.

The march will follow its usual route from Liberty Bell Park to Independence Park in the capital though participants will be asked to not play music. Yellow flags, a symbol of support for the hostages will be added to the customary pride flags.

“The Jerusalem Open House has put the victims of October 7 at the forefront of its protest this year, and I am touched by their support for our struggle,” said Tom Barkai, head of the Jerusalem Branch of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum in the statement.

A concluding rally in the park will host families and relatives of the hostages, representatives of bereaved families, and communities displaced from their homes by the war.

There will be some performing artists at the event “to help bring hope and comfort even in these dark days.”

File: A Border Police officer stands guard as people draped in rainbow flags march during the 21st annual Jerusalem Pride Parade in Jerusalem on June 1, 2023. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

“This year, we have the moral duty to stand with the families of the hostages, just as it is at the core of our commitment to fight for our rights – freedom, safety, and liberty,” said Jerusalem Open House head Nilli Maderer. “From the pain of recent months, we find double value in the march – we cry out for full freedom and equality in Israel, for everyone unable to live a free, complete life.”

Among those participating in the march will be the Hapoel Jerusalem soccer team fan club, which will call for the release of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, a committed fan of the team, the statement noted.

Hersh Goldberg-Polin was taken captive by Hamas terrorists from the Supernova desert rave on October 7, 2023 (Courtesy: Rachel Goldberg)

In stark contrast to the freewheeling conviviality of Tel Aviv’s frolicsome parade, Jerusalem’s heavily secured march is generally seen as both a Pride celebration and something of a protest against intolerant religious fundamentalist forces in the heavily religious city seeking to proscribe LGBTQ rights. In 2015, the parade was the scene of a deadly attack by an ultra-Orthodox knifeman.

“The connection with the Hostages and Missing Families Forum is natural and necessary, as they fight for the same values we have been marching for over two decades – the sanctity of life, human rights, and the right of every person to be free,” said Jonathan Valfer, chairperson of the Jerusalem Open House.

Since war erupted on October 7 with Hamas’s massacre in southern Israel, many public celebrations have adopted a more subdued theme due to the war and the continuing hostage crisis.

132 T-shirts representing 132 hostages in Gaza on display outside the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on May 14, 2024. (Igal Slavin)

It is believed that 128 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that. Three hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 12 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military.

The Israel Defense Forces has confirmed the deaths of 36 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

Hamas has also been 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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