In what is a rather controversial move, the United States Embassy in Israel raised a Gay Pride flag in honor of Tel-Aviv’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) Pride Week. The rainbow colored flag flew just below the American flag and is set to continue to do so for the rest of the week. A Facebook post on the page of Dan Shapiro, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, which was was written in both Hebrew and English read that the embassy was “Proudly flying the colors!” The post continued to read the United States Embassy in Tel Aviv had raised the Gay Pride flag together with the American flag for the first time in history and that they were pleased to unite with the municipality of Tel Aviv-Yafo in commemorating LGBT Pride Week.
The act and subsequent post created a stirring of discussion and led to many people posting responses on the official Facebook page of the embassy. Messages were mostly different degrees of displeasure with the act, but there were also a number of people who were proud that the U.S. was taking the bold and decisive action of raising the gay flag in support of the LGBT community, saying “Way to Go!” and “Proud” among many other comments. FoxNews.com reached out the embassy for a comment on the postings and were told that the United States embassy appreciated all the responses both for and against because they were happy to see the Facebook page used as a forum for free speech.
Co-chairman, Corey Bardash of Republicans Abroad in Israel, had said that neighboring countries and their embassies would be dissatisfied by such an overt exhibition of raising the Gay Pride flag above the U.S. Embassy in a show of support for the LGBT community. Tel Aviv is just one of a small number of cities in the Middle East where gays feel safe to walk hand-in-hand and embrace in public. The city has developed into a premier gay-friendly vacation destination in recent years, which is a distinctly sharp contrast to the surrounding Middle East region.
Tel Aviv being accepting of homosexuals is very different from traditional conservative Jerusalem however. In fact some of the holiest sites of Christianity, Islam and of course Judaism, are just a short drive away. Still, Jerusalem has its own minority gay scene as well as an annual gay pride parade, but on a much smaller scale than the one in Tel Aviv. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld of Tel Aviv said tens of thousands of people took part in the festival where music rang loudly along the parade’s route. The streets were abundant with people dancing to the music and brandishing rainbow colored flags.
Officially, there is no law for gay marriage in Israel, principally because there is actually no civil marriage at all. Weddings are to be done through the Jewish rabbinate, which of course believes homosexuality is a sin and an absolute violation of Jewish law. But the state of Israel does recognize same-sex couples that have been married in another country. Across the rest of the Middle East region, homosexual relationships are for the most part unmentionable. The extensiveness of the Muslim religion in ordinary life paired with severe cultural norms plays a key reason why same-sex relations are looked upon so poorly. Same-sex relations are actually punishable by death in a few countries around the world such as Mauritania, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Sudan. So it is a very risky move by the United States to support Gay Pride in such a hotbed area and raise the rainbow colored flag above the Israeli U.S. Embassy.
By B. Taylor Rash