Hundreds take part in Ashdod's gay pride parade on Friday, June 17, 2016. Ilan Assayag

Under Heavy Security, Hundreds Turn Out for Ashdod Gay Pride Parade

Event opens with a moment of silence in memory of 49 killed in Orlando nightclub shooting.

Hundreds participated on Friday in a Gay Pride Parade in Israel's coastal city of Ashdod, under heavy security maintained by more than 200 police officers.

Those present opened the event with a moment of silence in memory of the victims of a mass shooting in Orlando, Florida that killed 49 at a gay nightclub last Sunday.

The parade in Ashdod was the third to take place in the city, but this year brought few participants than expected - both among the public and Israeli politicians. Only one coalition lawmaker was present, Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu), and two from the opposition: Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) and Ilan Gilon (Meretz).

"Prejudice and stereotypes are the result of primitivism in a brutal and violent reality," Gilon told the gathering. "We have passed a landmark, but we have a lot more to get through until people will be judged by their actions rather than their identity. We want to lead a country that's blind to color, sexual orientation, community, ethnicity and sex."

Yael Nodelman, a representative of bisexual, pansexual and polysexual groups attested to the common denominators between the gay community's campaign for recognition in Israeli society to her groups' struggle for recognition within the gay and lesbian community.

Ilan Assayag

"The bi-pan-poly community often has to remind [gay and lesbian] community members, especially those in Tel Aviv, that we exist," said Nodelman. "Either way, together and united, we fight for recognition. It's time that we are acknowledged, that the trans in Ashdod and the pansexuals in Hadera are acknowledged together with the gays in Tel Aviv and the lesbians in Ramat Gan."

Hadar, a participant in the event, said that "they try to paint a rosy picture that Israel is a receptive place and accepts the other, and they use the march in Tel Aviv to this end, but there are a lot of sinkholes for the community in the periphery. There is lots of homophobia and there aren't funds or much motivation for education and change."

Some 200,000 people participated in Tel Aviv's gay pride parade at the beginning of June, including some 35,000 tourists. Many singers and other performers attended the event with even some television stars from abroad.

Ilan Assayag
Ilan Assayag

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