Tel Aviv cancels annual Pride Parade out of respect for hostage situation

Mayor says city and LGBTQ groups will instead rally for ‘pride, hope and liberty’; Jerusalem Open House announces May 30 march still on as part of struggle for captives’ return

People participate in the 25th annual Tel Aviv Pride Parade on June 8, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
File: People participate in the 25th annual Tel Aviv Pride Parade on June 8, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Tel Aviv will not hold its annual Pride Parade next month, the city’s mayor announced Wednesday, canceling the normally exuberant celebration of LGBTQ life in the famously open city out of deference to the plight of hostages in Gaza.

“This isn’t the time for celebrations,” Ron Huldai wrote on X. “132 of our sons and daughters are still hostages in Gaza, the bereavement circles keep widening, and every day we [remain] in the midst of one of the State of Israel’s most difficult times.”

Normally drawing tens of thousands of locals and many from around the world, Tel Aviv’s parade has been considered a highlight of the city’s annual calendar for the last 25 years, with massive street festivities feting Israel’s LGBTQ community in a boisterous display of fun and tolerance that marks a point of pride for many Israelis.

Instead of the regular parade, Huldai said that Tel Aviv and LGBTQ organizations had decided to hold a rally for “pride, hope, and liberty.”

“Tel Aviv is the home of the LGBTQ+ community. It always has been and always will be,” Huldai said.

In Jerusalem, organizers of the capital’s Pride and Tolerance March announced that it would be held on May 30 along the traditional parade route, billing the event as part of the struggle for the return of the hostages.

Posters of Israelis held hostage by Hamas are seen on the wall of the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, April 3, 2024. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Jerusalem Open House, which organizes the march, noted that the annual event already had the character of a protest, marked by calls for tolerance, hope, communal strength and optimism.

In stark contrast to Tel Aviv’s frolicsome conviviality, Jerusalem’s heavily secured parade is generally seen as both a Pride celebration and defiant rejection of intolerant religious fundamentalist forces seeking to proscribe LGBTQ rights, including some who now hold government power. In 2015, the parade was the scene of a deadly attack by an ultra-Orthodox knifeman.

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

Normally smaller than Tel Aviv’s event, Jerusalem’s parade this year will be a demonstration of the entire LGBTQ community in Israel, who will come to the capital city demanding equal rights, the Open House said.

The cancellation of the Tel Aviv event marks the second time in four years that it has been nixed, after organizers were forced to call it off due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions in 2020.

To make up for canceling the parade, Huldai said that the budget that was intended for the parade would instead be given to the municipal LGBTQ community center.

“We are feeling the pain of an entire nation, and at the same time, we’re not stopping our struggle for equality and liberty for everyone,” he said. “We’ll see you at the Pride Parade of June 2025.”

File: Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai speaks during a protest march as part of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in Tel Aviv, November 24, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

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 IDF 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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