Hundreds in Tel Aviv rallied in support of LGBTQ rights after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn in as the head of what is being called Israel’s most right-wing government.
Many protesters were speaking out against Netanyahu’s allies’ proposal to scrap anti-discrimination legislation, effectively allowing businesses and medical providers to deny services to LGBTQ people on the basis of religious beliefs.
Photos and videos of the protests showed people waving pride flags and at one point, blocking a major highway that runs through the city.
Protesters were seen waving both pride and Israel flags, with some drag queens showing up in solidarity.
Crowds also demonstrated outside the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem.
As Israelis rallied to protest the potential rollback of LGBTQ rights, Amir Ohana was appointed the first openly-gay speaker of the Knesset. During his acceptance speech, Ohana vowed that the new coalition would not infringe upon LGBTQ rights, the Times of Israel reported.
“This Knesset, under the leadership of this speaker, won’t hurt them or any other family, period,” he said in comments directed toward his partner and two children who were in attendance during the ceremony.
Blake Flayton, a columnist for the Jewish Journal newspaper who attended the protest in Tel Aviv, told Semafor that he is “cautiously optimistic” both Ohana and Netanyahu will push back against radical viewpoints, but said he also “wouldn’t be shocked” if anti-LGBTQ legislation is passed.
“This is obviously frightening for LGBTQ Israelis who will now have ministers in government who don’t recognize us as deserving rights and freedoms,” Flayton said.
People across Israel this week have been protesting Netanyahu’s third stint as prime minister leading a hard-right coalition that includes several cabinet members from ultranationalist and religious parties.
The incoming minister for national security was previously convicted of supporting terrorism and inciting anti-Arab racism.
Netanyahu’s government has said that one of its top priorities will be expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank, angering pro-Palestine groups. The new government also plans on enacting sweeping judicial reforms, giving the Knesset -- Israel’s parliament -- more power over judicial appointments.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Shay Bramson, chairman of the Havruta organization for religious, LGBTQ+ men, said: “We came to say today that there is no legitimacy to delegitimize our community, even if you are members of the government.”
“Judaism is also ours, and it is not a religion of hatred, ostracism and discrimination,” he said.