Thousands in Israel hold muted Gay Pride events


Jerusalem (AFP)

Thousands took part in muted LGBT events across Israel on Sunday as the usually larger gatherings were cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions.

In Tel Aviv, home to the Middle East's biggest annual Pride parade, revellers gathered at Rabin Square for a concert featuring local stars including transgender Eurovision winner Dana International.

An hour's drive away, police deployed in force to secure the parallel Jerusalem event, just shy of five years after a participant was murdered by a Jewish religious extremist.

On July 30, 2015, teenager Shira Banki was stabbed to death during the parade by ultra-Orthodox Jew Yishai Shlissel, who also wounded six others.

Police arrested 27 people before Sunday's event "to avoid any incidents", a spokesman said.

The parade began with several hundred people observing a minute's silence in Banki's memory and that of "all victims of homophobia".

Pride events also took place in the northern city of Haifa and Beersheva in the south, with all four taking place under the strapline "the revolution is not over".

The date was chosen to mark the 50th anniversary of the first Gay Pride parade in New York on June 28, 1970.

Around the world, the LGBT community and their supporters took many events online on Saturday, responding to the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

With Israel still suffering hundreds of new COVID-19 infections a day, the police imposed limits on attendance at the country's events.

The country has reported over 23,000 cases of the disease, including 318 deaths.

Israel's parliament currently has six openly gay members, a record in a country where a sizeable ultra-orthodox Jewish population is deeply against LGBT rights.