Tel Aviv’s annual Pride Parade, as well as the marches in Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheba, will not take place as planned due to efforts to stem the coronavirus pandemic, organizers announced Sunday.
Last year, some 250,000 people took part in the Tel Aviv event, with the parade coming as the culmination of more than 45 Pride-related events across the city. Numerous virtual events will instead be taking place this year, organizers said.
“The struggle for LGBT equality must not be stopped,” Etai Pinkas-Arad, who holds the LGBT portfolio on the Tel Aviv city council, told Channel 13 news. “But at the same time, we prioritize keeping citizens healthy.”
Despite the cancellations, organizers say they are “hopeful” that Pride parades can take place in the summer at a later date. Tel Aviv’s event has been postponed from June 12 until August.
Alon Shachar, the director of the Jerusalem Open House, the capital’s leading LGBT organization, said it was important to remember that the coronavirus pandemic was disproportionately affecting the marginalized members of society.
“Even in the current state of emergency in the country in general and in Jerusalem in particular, our commitment is first and foremost to community members who are at increased risk and unfortunately the coronavirus is exacerbating the existing gaps,” Shachar said. “Those who deal with discrimination and personal security challenges, as well as health, housing and employment, and struggle to survive and live with dignity even in their daily lives, are at the highest risk in the face of the epidemic.”
Although the Tel Aviv parade is the largest in Israel, the Jerusalem parade is a highlight for the city’s vibrant LGBT community, which is beset by religious and political tensions ever-present in the capital.
Some 10,000-15,000 people marched in the capital’s 2019 pride parade, with over 2,000 police securing the highly charged event four years after 16-year-old Shira Banki was stabbed to death in a deadly attack on participants.
The southern city of Beersheba held its first parade in 2017 and thousands also march annually in the northern city of Haifa.
The Tourism Ministry estimated last year that 25,000 to 30,000 people come from abroad to participate in Israel’s Pride events, injecting some NIS 162 million ($45 million) into the local economy. The ministry annually spends NIS 320 million ($89 million) on advertising Israeli tourism to gay audiences, including for Pride Week.