WIZO Removes LGBT Pride Flag at Israeli Daycare Center

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The rainbow flag flying next to the Israeli flag at the WIZO daycare center in Givatayim, before its removal.
The rainbow flag flying next to the Israeli flag at the WIZO daycare center in Givatayim, before its removal.Credit: Moti Milrod

The Women's International Zionist Organization told one of its daycare centers in a Tel Aviv suburb on Tuesday to remove the pride flag it had hanged at the entrance, following a complaint from a parent.

One father had written to the daycare center in Givatayim that he "didn't know how to explain" to his child what the rainbow flag means. WIZO then instructed the center to remove it, even though the Education Ministry does not forbid institutions to fly the flag on their premises. The ministry had ruled in the past on the matter that "It is the principal's responsibility in every educational institution to act in accordance with the spirit of the student population."

In response, WIZO said that the two flags that may be flown at its organization's daycare centers throughout the country are the Israeli flag and the flag bearing the organization's logo, and that every other symbol or flag would be taken down.

The pride flag was raised this year at the building at the initiative of the director of the WIZO daycare, where about 30 percent of the children's parents belong to the LGBT community.

The school's parents' committee notified the rest of the parents about the change in policy. The committee wrote that "We do not have the words to express our disappointment in the narrow-mindedness and self-involvement that led this person to complain, and we certainly cannot understand the organization’s decision to take down the flag.”

Parents said that WIZO's decision took them by surprise, as there were no complaints when the flag was put up at the beginning of the school year.

“You don’t know how to explain what the flag means? Ask for advice. Knowledge is power," said the parents' committee's statement. "Embracing difference brings quite a bit with it, and if we don't know how to do this as adults, how can we expect it from our children?" the committee vowed that "we will not rest until the flag waves again at our daycare center, even if we need to hang it ourselves."

Despite the parents' request, the daycare's supervisor, a WIZO employee, refused to reverse the order. Parents asked the Givatayim municipality if they could put the flag back up; if they are denied, they said, they intend to buy smaller rainbow flags and stick them onto the children's schoolbags. "If they didn't want one flag, there will be 160 little flags," Galit Yosef of the parents' committee told Haaretz.

"We have LGBT parents in the class, how are they supposed to feel?" Yosef said. "Their children certainly know the flag, and see it at the entrance to the daycare. How will they feel when it’s not there anymore? WIZO is only driven by preventing a fuss, so the minute one parent asked, they woke up." She added, "There's no way that because of one person, we all need to fall in line. Today it's the flag, and tomorrow they'll decide not to teach on Family Day that there's more than one model of parenting."

WIZO, which operates a network of daycare centers for early childhood education, is not an official government body, and is not subordinate to the official education system.

The government does supervise the activities of WIZO’s daycare centers, sets regulations for their operation and in certain cases subsidizes fees for parents who need it.

The state does not forbid schools from flying the pride flag. In 2018, the Education Ministry said of the matter that "The director of each school must act according to the spirit of the student population. The Education Ministry is working to increase tolerance and prevent any display of hatred, including hatred of the LGBT community."

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