Amid political controversy, thousands marched in the Jerusalem Pride Parade, celebrating LGBTQ rights and protesting against recent developments in the Middle Eastern state. The parade drew an estimated fifteen thousand people far and wide from the breadth of the country.

There’s an added reason for this activism.

The current Netanyahu government is considered by many observers to be a reactionary one. The  coalition has garnered ongoing controversy for a series of brash acts, including a recent spate of violence in Gaza. Now, the latest political development is adding fuel to an already-active fire, in a land riven by political controversy.

The Israeli government recently passed a new surrogacy law. The law excludes gay fathers. The pushback from the LGBTQ community was swiftly felt.

As U.S. News reported, “Festivities mixed with anger this year after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month pledged to pass legislation supporting surrogacy for gay fathers, but then voted against it, apparently under pressure from ultra-Orthodox Jewish coalition partners. Some marchers at the parade Thursday chanted slogans calling Netanyahu a ‘homophobe.'”

Two weeks ago, members of the LGBTQ community and their allies went on a nationwide strike.

As the Jerusalem Post wrote on July 18, “Hundreds of demonstrators blocked Ibn Gvirol and other main streets in Tel Aviv Wednesday night to protest the passage that afternoon of the surrogacy law. The bill, enacted by a vote of 59 to 52, expands eligibility for state-supported surrogacy to include single women but excludes single men and gay couples. Previously state support was only given to married heterosexual couples.”

Pride marchers wore flags with the rainbow design; many of these flags were emblazoned with the Star of David. According to reports, many same-sex couples held hands, and many of the marchers held signs: “I want to be a father” and “Proud to be equal” were two of the phrases seen.

Counter-protesters were also seen near the site of the parade. Tel Aviv, widely considered to be a more liberal city, is used to Pride displays. Jerusalem, a slightly more conservative metropolis, was less welcoming.

As the news magazine noted: “In Israel, homosexuals serve openly in Israel’s military and parliament, and many popular artists and entertainers are homosexual.”

“However, leaders of the gay community say Israel still has far to go in promoting equality.”

Four arrests were made, according to the city’s law enforcement.

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