Vehicle carrying pride flags torched in Tel Aviv suburb, in suspected hate crime

Hod Hasharon mayor says baseless hate that led to Second Temple’s destruction to blame, orders more flags to hang up around city

A vehicle carrying pride flags is set ablaze in Hod Hasharon on July 7, 2023. (Courtesy)
A vehicle carrying pride flags is set ablaze in Hod Hasharon on July 7, 2023. (Courtesy)

A vehicle carrying a stack of LGBTQ pride flags was set ablaze Friday in the Tel Aviv suburb of Hod Hasharon, in a suspected hate crime.

The vehicle belonged to a contractor for the municipality who was taking down flags in Hod Hasharon put up for pride month in June. The blaze was believed to be started by a young male suspect who police have yet to apprehend.

An initial police investigation found the suspect lit one of the flags on fire and that the blaze quickly spread to the entire car, which became consumed in flames and dark smoke. Firefighters were dispatched to the scene and managed to extinguish the flames.

Hod Hasharon Mayor Amir Kochavi condemned the incident and noted the flags were burned on the 17th of Tamuz, a fast day commemorating the breach of Jerusalem’s walls by the Romans on their way to destroying the Second Temple. Tradition teaches that the temple was destroyed due to senseless hatred among Jews, which Kochavi said was behind the burning of the flags as well.

The Hod Hasharon mayor said he put in an order for new pride flags and that they would be hung throughout the city to “instill values of equality, tolerance and pride in response to the hate crime.”

“The young man caused serious damage to property and put lives in danger in a violent attack against the values of tolerance, diversity and community. I hope that the arsonist along with those who influenced him will be caught and that they will find a way to repent,” Kochavi said.

A firefighter puts out a blaze that engulfed a vehicle carrying pride flags in Hod Hasharon on July 7, 2023. (Courtesy)

The Aguda Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel said in a statement on the incident that it has documented several dozen cases of pride flags being torn down during pride month.

In a report published in March, the Aguda Association for LGBTQ Equality said it had recorded 3,300 incidents of hate against the LGBTQ community in 2022, an 11 percent increase compared to 2021. The report did not provide details on the nature of those attacks.

Nearly half the reported cases took place in Tel Aviv and the central Israel region. Nearly 20% occurred in Jerusalem and surrounding areas, the report said.

The LGBTQ community has repeatedly voiced its concerns over the hardline coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which took power in late December, fearing that its plans to weaken the judiciary’s powers could leave their community members vulnerable to discrimination.

In April, a group of right-wing counter-demonstrators tried to tear down a pride flag from a balcony in Tel Aviv on Saturday, amid mass protests against the government’s judicial overhaul. A resident of the apartment told media outlets that it was the second time that week that passersby tried to take down the flag.

Also that day, the slogan “Kahane lives” was graffitied on an external wall and window of the Tel Aviv LGBTQ Community Center.

The phrase is a show of support for the extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, a one-time member of Knesset for the racist Kach party he founded and who was assassinated at a New York City hotel in November 1990 by an Egyptian-American jihadist.

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