The consulate handed out condoms at San Francisco Pride that read, "Israel: Always safe to come." (Photo/Twitter @MatanZamir)
The consulate handed out condoms at San Francisco Pride that read, "Israel: Always safe to come." (Photo/Twitter @MatanZamir)

Celebrating S.F. Pride as an Israeli official: Hate is loud, but love prevails

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On Pride Sunday, the Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest joined a quarter of a million people in celebrating love and equality at the San Francisco Pride Parade. Consulate staffers, myself included, arrived early in the morning to set up our booth.

The booth was lively and colorful, filled with rainbow Pride flags alongside blue and white Israeli flags. It included a trivia wheel with fun facts about Israel’s queer community, and prizes such as stickers, condoms and rainbow lollipops.

I was looking forward to the day, but was prepared for the possibility that alongside the positive interactions we might face some not so positive feedback.

But as the booth opened, I quickly realized that the day was going to be much better than I expected. All day long, we were greeted with overwhelming gratitude, excitement and curiosity. Jews and Israelis of all ages were thrilled to be able to find a familiar place at Pride, which many described as a meaningful part of their culture. Many waited in the long line that formed just to chat with us about their ties to Israel, whether it was their fond memories of a Birthright trip or visiting family members.

However, most people visiting our booth were not Jewish or Israeli, but rather individuals eager to learn more about Israel’s culture, playing our trivia wheel or talking with consulate staff about past and potential trips to Israel.

It was heartwarming to see the reactions of people learning that the IDF supports gender affirmation surgery during military service, that same-sex couples in Israel can become parents through surrogacy and adoption, and that Tel Aviv’s Pride celebrations are the largest in Asia and date all the way back to the 1970s. A common response was “Way to go, Israel!”

When the loudest voices are often those expressing hate anonymously on social media, it can be easy to forget how much love exists in the world. During Pride, we saw that San Francisco is full of people who love Israel, and many who don’t know much about it but are very curious to find out.

This year’s Pride was a personal reminder for me that the work we do at the consulate has to be directed not just to fighting those who try to harm us, and not just to furthering existing relationships, as important as those efforts are. We must also reach out more to the vast majority who are open to connecting with Israel through their own areas of interest and personal values, be that food, sports or LGBTQ pride.

Hate may be loud, but we have seen time and time again that love prevails.

Matan Zamir

Matan Zamir is the San Francisco-based deputy consul general of Israel to the Pacific Northwest.