Israeli Mayor Says Municipal Workers Shouldn't Express Support for LGBTQ Community

Responding to complaint against librarian who placed a Gay Pride flag on her desk, Haifa mayor says that 'in public places... this might be inappropriate'

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
The rainbow flag a librarian from Haifa put on her desk.
The rainbow flag a librarian from Haifa put on her desk.
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

The mayor of a northern Israeli city that "there is fault" with the decision by a librarian to place a miniature Gay Pride flag on her desk.

Municipal employees must refrain insofar as possible from expressing their personal opinions while serving the public, Haifa Mayor Einat Kalisch Rotem said in response to a complaint about the librarian.

“We must be very sensitive about expressing personal opinions in workplaces that provide service to the general public,” the mayor said. “In our own homes, we can do as we please. But in a public workplace that provides service to the general public, this might be inappropriate.”

>> Read more: Israel's education minister now says he opposes gay 'conversion therapy'Porn, pain and guilt: Religious homosexual Israelis recount 'conversion therapy'The Mideast's Stonewall? From Iraq to Morocco, the fight for LGBTQ rights rages on

The librarian, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Hannah, told Haaretz that four years ago, after 16-year-old Shira Banki was murdered during Jerusalem’s Gay Pride Parade, “I put a small, simple Gay Pride flag among my personal belongings as a sign of solidarity. The murder shocked me. I’m against baseless hatred. Homophobia kills me. It really affects me.

“I wasn’t trying to create a provocation, just for people from the [LGBTQ] community who come to the library to feel there’s a safe space. Over the years, it remained there. It was a message. It wasn’t a provocation and it wasn’t against anyone. It was for equality for all. Everyone comes to our library – from religious and ultra-Orthodox people to the completely secular; students, faculty from the Technion [Israel Institute of Technology] and the university [of Haifa], authors and poets.”

But two and a half weeks ago, Hannah said, a man complained to the library, and then to City Hall. After that, she got phone calls from parents who said they were afraid to send their children to the library. She said she assumed most of the calls came from people who participate in the Family Parade, which takes place in Haifa the day before the annual Gay Pride Parade as a protest against the latter and against nontraditional families in general.

The flag never bothered anyone before, she continued, but “the wrong man apparently heard a child asking what it is. I wasn’t even in the library. I’m not even certain it was his child. Most of the religious community in our neighborhood is respectful and accepting. They don’t get involved in people’s private space. Nor were there lots of complaints.”

Asked about the mayor’s response, Hannah noted that Kalisch Rotem didn’t forbid her to keep the flag on her desk. Nevertheless, she said, “This isn’t what we expected. She’s really supportive. She has bolstered the [LGBTQ] community and comes to the LGBT Center.”

A demonstration of support for the community is expected to take place on Thursday evening outside City Hall following the incident.

So far, no response has been received from the mayor’s office.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN


נתניהו עם כיפה שחורה על הראש נשען בשתי ידיו על הכותל

Israel Is Heading for Its Most 'Jewish' Election Ever

An El Al jet sits on the tarmac at John C. Munro International Airport in Hamilton, Thursday, in 2003.

El Al to Stop Flying to Toronto, Warsaw and Brussels

FILE PHOTO: A Star of David hangs from a fence outside the dormant landmark Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood in 2021.

American Judaism Is in Decline. That's Great News for American Jews

Crowds at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport, in April.

U.S. Official: West Bank Entry for Palestinian Americans Unrelated to Israeli Visa Waivers

Haaretz spoke with several people who said they had fled Ukraine, arrived in Israel,  and were asked to undergo DNA tests in order to establish paternity.

'My Jewish Grandmother Has a Number on Her Arm, Why Does Israel Greet Me This Way?'

People taking part in the annual "March of the Living" to commemorate the Holocaust, between the former death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland, four years ago.

It’s Not Just the Holocaust. Israel Is Failing to Teach the History of the Jews