Be'er Sheva Pledges Funds for First Outdoor Gay Pride Event

Council member protests move, demands Mayor Rubik Danilovich declare his own sexual orientation.

Yanir Yagna
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Yanir Yagna

The Be'er Sheva municipality has pledged more than NIS 15,000 for the city's first outdoor gay pride event, scheduled to take place June 4. While gay activists are calling this a landmark achievement, one city council member has vowed to fight the funding and is demanding the mayor clarify his own sexual orientation.

A memorial in Be'er Sheva in 2009 after a shooting attack at a Tel Aviv gay center Credit: Eyal Toueg

The city of Be'er Sheva will be sponsoring the event through the company Kivunim, which provides cultural services.

"The intention to allocate municipal funding for these inappropriate events and parades is unthinkable," said council member Zacharia Ohev-Shalom, who represents a number of ultra-Orthodox groups.

Be'er Sheva Mayor Rubik Danilovich.Credit: Eyal Toueg

"I am surprised Mayor Rubik Danilovich agreed to hold the event," Ohev-Shalom added. "We need to check and determine his motives. I want the mayor to declare his sexual orientation to the people of Be'er Sheva and announce whether he intends to march with [the participants of the event]."

Be'er Sheva has hosted events for the gay community before, but this will mark the first time such a gathering is held outdoors. The event is expected to draw 600 participants from the city and the surrounding area. Ben-Gurion University's student association will be cosponsoring the event - whose total cost is estimated at NIS 30,000 - along with Luzzatto & Luzzatto Patent Attorneys.

Barak Atar, a prominent activist within Be'er Sheva's gay community and one of the organizers of the June 4 event, said the mayor had contacted them to ask whether they would like to hold a cultural event for the gay community.

Atar described Ohev-Shalom's statements as "war mongering" and an attempt to "drive away tolerance" from Be'er Sheva. Nissim Sasportas, the director-general of Kivunim, said the decision to hold the event stemmed from the deadly attack on a gay community center in Tel Aviv some 10 months ago.

One Be'er Sheva resident, a young religious man who asked to remain anonymous, said opposed the event "because we have a status quo and an event like this has never been held here before." Another religious man, who also asked to remain anonymous, said "The gay community has the right to do whatever it likes. This is not Mea She'arim."

A 23-year-old resident said he was afraid someone might get stabbed at the event "because of incitement" against gays.

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