Israel’s LGBT community and social activists staged a nationwide strike on Sunday, July 22, to protest discrimination and inequality, after the Knesset passed legislation ease surrogacy regulations but which does not apply to male gay couples.
Tens of thousands of members of the LGBT community joined the one-day strike to protest the discriminatory law, tying their action to the broader discrimination many members of the LGBT community face.
Thousands of protesters shut down one of the country’s busiest highways by blocking traffic on Sunday in Tel Aviv. Hundreds more protested in Jerusalem, where several people were arrested. Protests and demonstration were held in Sunday in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Beer Sheva, Kfar Saba, Afula, Kohav Yair – Tzur Yigal, Pardess Hanna – Karkur, Kyriat Shmona, Raanana, Even Yehuda, Modi’in and Karmiel.
On Sunday night, an estimated 80,000 LGBT Israelis and supporters gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square for a mass rally which capped off the day’s demonstrations and actions. According to LGBT activists, Sunday’s strike and protests hearken back to the massive social justice protests of 2011, during which hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets to demand social justice over growing neoliberal policies.
Many in the community have openly criticized the government for using LGBT rights to “pinkwash” Israel, giving it an ostensibly liberal image as a haven for queer people in the Middle East, while simultaneously opposing legislation that would grant them full equality.
“For the first time ever, the gay community will go on a national strike,” the Agudah, the Israeli LGBT community’s umbrella organization, wrote in a statement last week. “Workers from the community, as well as our supporters and partners, will not be at work and will close their businesses to protest the blatant discrimination against the LGBT community.”