Foreign Minister Yair Lapid ordered the pride flag to be displayed outside the Foreign Ministry office in Jerusalem on Monday in honor of Pride Month — but not everybody was thrilled.
“This morning, I instructed that the pride flag be raised for the first time ever at the Foreign Ministry to mark Pride Month,” Lapid tweeted in English on Monday morning, alongside a photo of the flag on display. The Foreign Ministry and its employees “bring a message of tolerance, unity and freedom,” Lapid added.
Idan Roll, the deputy foreign minister, who is openly gay, welcomed the decision.
“Waving the pride flag proudly alongside the flag of Israel at the Foreign Ministry is an important message both inside and outside Israel,” Roll said. “I remember myself as a 16-year-old boy, with fears for the future, and I hope that this moment can instill confidence in boys and girls in Israel, and the world, and send a message of tolerance and acceptance in Israeli society as a whole.”
MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, of the opposition’s far-right Religious Zionism party, called the decision a “cheap provocation.”
“Displaying the LGBT flag at a government office is a cheap provocation, wrapped in statesmanship, that doesn’t send an educational or values-based message, rather one of conflict and insult to religion,” Ben-Gvir tweeted. He added that he “has no problem” with gay people. Rather, “displaying the flag does not serve the community, but harms them and turns them into a political tool by Lapid.”
Ben-Gvir took part in a protest against the Jerusalem Pride Parade earlier this month.
MK Bezalel Smotrich, the head of Religious Zionism, also slammed Lapid’s decision in a speech in the Knesset on Monday.
“I saw that the foreign minister hung a colorful flag, I thought it was the Druze flag. I didn’t understand,” Smotrich said. “Where is the respect for the symbol? The flag? Statesmanship?”
Smotrich said he wants to feel that the Foreign Ministry “also represents me!” He accused Lapid of “taking controversial issues and spoiling them.”
Pride Month is marked in Israel and around the world in June. The Tel Aviv Pride Parade, the biggest in the Middle East, is slated for this Friday.