Thousands demonstrate for LGBT rights in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa

Protests for LGBTQ rights began around the country at 10 a.m., urging the government to pass equal legislation for gay and lesbian couples and to bring awareness to the treatment of LGBTQ community members in Israel.

The protests were spurred by a recent law passed in the Knesset which made single women eligible for state-supported surrogacy, but denied it to single men and same-sex couples. Previously, only heterosexual couples were allowed state-supported surrogacy.

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When the bill passed on Thursday, July 19, protestors blocked main roads in Tel Aviv. Protestors argue that the bill did not go far enough, and was discriminatory in blocking single males and homosexual couples.

“I think it’s the most basic thing that a human being can ask for himself is to be a parent, and our government is denying that from I don’t know how many percent of the population,” said Shahar Kazaz, an ally who marched for his brother and friends. “As you can see, a lot of people are annoyed by it. Everyone deserves to be a parent. It’s absurd that it even came to that we need to protest for our basic human rights.”

Lesbian couples are allowed to have the procedure because they are considered single moms.

“That’s even more absurd, you’re already passing the law, just make it approved for everybody,” Kazaz continued. “It’s a new law that has been passed so it’s a chance to correct it, not make it worse.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously promised to support an amendment to the bill to include single men access to surrogacy, but voted against it. This law was one of the .

“The process of surrogacy is very complicated  — it is crazy expensive and the costs are astronomical,” said Suzi Boum, one of the most famous drag queens in Israel. “If the right exists in Israel — if there are women who can have surrogacy, why can‘t men? Especially homosexual couples. We are here to protest against all the anti-democratic laws that have been enacted recently in the country, especially against the LGBT community.”

People stopped her multiple times while marching to ask for pictures. When she’s not in drag, she goes by Lior Yisraelov, who is known for his Orthodox family background.

Sunday marks Tisha Be’av, the Jewish fast day marking the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

Along with the protests, companies and organizations allowed employees to take a paid day off work to strike and join the protests, extending this offer to any employee.

Around the country, protestors met in Paris Square in Jerusalem, on Independence Street in Haifa and at the Karmiel Junction in the northern city of Karmiel.

At the HaShalom Junction in Tel Aviv, police closed roads along the protest route, which shut down the Ayalon Highway and ended on Rothschild Street, where the main hub of the protest was marked by tents near Habima Square. There, the organizers of the protests were interviewed by Gal Uchovsky, a prominent journalist and recognizable figure in the LGBTQ community. He is also president of the Israel Gay Youth (IGY) group.

IGY is a country-wide youth movement for gay and LGBTQ youth and young adults, who are fighting for family and alternative family options. With more than 4,000 youth members and 300 volunteers, they work to create safe spaces for the LGBTQ community and fight for rights.

Members of IGY were some of the fiercest voices in the march, staying at the front of the marchers and stopping to chant, cheer and dance along the route. According to Rom Ohayon, an IGY member, there were around 100 members of IGY at the protest in Tel Aviv.

“I work every day with young LGBTQs and I think they are radical and they are ambitious and they can change the society and we have the responsibility [to allow] them to do that … you won’t have to wait until you’re 18 for your to live and fight for our equal rights,” Ohayon said. “I’m trying also to give places of security that I didn’t have for myself or my peers when I was an LGBTQ youth.”

Later in the day, protest meetings will be occurring at 14:00 in Gan Ha’atzmaut in Jerusalem and in the Community House in Haifa. Protestors in Beer Sheva are meeting at the Teachers’ Center at 11:00. Those in Even Yehuda will be meeting at the library plaza at 17:00, and a demonstration in Independence Square will start at 19:00 in Afula.

The main event will be the protest march at 18:00 in Tel Aviv, which will begin on Washington Boulevard and end at the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station.

At 20:30, a mass protest rally will begin in Rabin Square to support equal rights, the right to security and recognition of these issues.

Future events this week include pride events in Jerusalem, Lod and Hasharon on Monday, Thursday and Friday respectively.