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Israel: U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv raises gay flag and some eyebrows

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Gay pride has been taking place throughout the nation and the world in the month of June. In Israel over 80,000 people showed up to show their pride in a celebration in the gay-friendly city of Tel Aviv. The weeklong Gay Pride week was capped off by a groundbreaking gesture from the U.S. Embassy. According to Fox News on Saturday, the embassy raised a rainbow-colored gay pride flag to show support and as a symbol of acceptance.

If flying the flag wasn’t enough of a statement, the Facebook page of U.S. ambassador Dan Shapiro’s office posted a message in two languages that read, “Proudly flying the colors!” As Tel Aviv has been one of the few cities in the Middle East where the LGBT community can be free to be themselves, the gesture was an example of tolerance and a hope that acceptance can be extended throughout the Middle East.

The Facebook page goes on to read, “For the first time in history, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv has raised the Pride flag together with our American flag. We are proud to join with the municipality of Tel Aviv-Yafo and its residents in celebrating LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual] Pride Week.”

Reactions to the flag being raised outside of the gay community were both positive and negative. Some didn’t see it as being a problem, but there were some who were confused, as they didn’t believe the gay flag represented all Americans. Corey Bardash, co-chairman of Republicans Abroad-Israel, said the gesture would’ve raised eyebrows in neighboring countries.

He told Fox News, “Regardless of one’s religious or political sensitivities this is the only country in the Middle East where America would feel its embassy wouldn’t come under attack by doing such a thing. I remember when, not so long ago, [former Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmedinejad said there are no gay people in Iran!”

Now the gay community is a visible part of the culture, especially in Tel Aviv as this week marked one of the world’s largest pride celebrations. The tolerance shown with the raising of the flag also shows, according to Baradsh, “that here is a little island in the Middle East that shares the same democratic values as America.” Here in America, many cities raise flags as a symbol of support for their LGBT communities. It is a sign of progress to see it happening globally.