The Growing Political Influence of Israel’s LGBT Community

This piece was originally published in The Huffington Post. You can see the original post here.

A gay pride parade in Jerusalem sounds preposterous: the same city that is the capital to three world religions and a millennia-long touchstone of strife and violence. Even those who are aware of Tel Aviv’s internationally known gay culture, which attracted a record quarter-million marchers to its own pride parade in June, would scarcely consider venturing out in their colorful tanktops to march down Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem.

And yet, this summer saw exactly that: a record twenty-five thousand Israelis of all stripes emerging onto the streets of the Holy City with rainbow flags and painted faces, marching proudly and resolutely for what was billed as the “Jerusalem March For Pride and Tolerance.” Coming one year after a stabbing attack that killed Shira Banki, a 16 year-old straight ally who marched in support of her LGBT friends before being murdered by a fanatic ultra-Orthodox Jew, it was a sobering yet empowering moment in a community where LGBT individuals have long scratched out an existence by keeping a low profile.