Pride in Israel

Watching Israel from afar feels very strange to me. As someone that used to be very involved with the happenings, being on the sideline makes me uncomfortable. At the same time, there is slight relief. For the first time ever, I got to experience a military operation that didn’t affect me physically. I didn’t have to go into shelter every few minutes or to consider showering because an alarm might start in the middle.

But what does that have to do with Pride? Keep reading if you want to find out.

The months of April and May are always full in Israel. Ramadan, the Yoms, Jerusalem Day, Eurovision… everything takes place at the same time. It is a time when we are both proud to be citizens of our country and have constant reminders of its imperfection. And so is the relationship of Israel with its LGBTQ community. For June, which is pride month, I wanted to highlight that relationship and do so while sharing what it’s like living in Israel today.

Gay marriage is not allowed in Israel. As a Jewish state, it was decided once that marriage in Israel must go through the Rabbinate, which is the Jewish authority national institution. Through the years, there were several battles over that decision. Several groups participated, each one with its reasons. Some did it for LGBTQ rights, some did it for secular marriage, and some did it for interfaith marriage.

An historic decision made by the Israeli Supreme Court, created an opening for a resolution. Civil marriages can still not be performed on Israeli land, but if you enter Israel married, the state will acknowledge that. This created the phenomenon of Cyprus weddings, which were not only an opportunity for multi-faith and same sex weddings, but also a gateway for young couples to escape their families during stressful wedding times (and yes, my wife and I considered that). And it has gone on for 30 years now, a decision to avoid a decision forced the public to adapt and create alternatives. A common thing in Israel.

A surprising progress came during COVID – via the internet. Now, being forced to marry without your closest 700 people (a typical Israeli wedding… by contrast, ours was very small with only 250 people), an alternative has popped up, Zoom weddings by the state of Utah. Yes, I know, several questions come to mind, the first one being “Utah?” But so is reality, and that’s how the first civil marriage was conducted on Israeli soil, following a decision to avoid a decision.

This is just one example of the complicated relationship between the state of Israel and the Pride community. It’s progressing but remaining far behind. One of the most colorful, beautiful, and prominent LGBTQ communities in the world still lacks its basic rights. Israel is the home of one of the largest pride parades in the world, and one that does not allow equal adoption possibilities. And so is Israel in all matters, dealing with everything at once, making small indecisive steps. And to fully understand a certain aspect, you need to be ready to fully dive in, headfirst.