The former executive director of Jerusalem’s community centre for the gay community is to become the head of Israel’s leading human rights group.

Hagai El-Ad was closely identified with Jerusalem Open House’s efforts to hold Pride events in the city, as the centre’s executive director.

He is to take up the same role this month at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

Mr El-Ad holds master’s degree in physics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

While studying astrophysics at Harvard he acted as the US representative for the JOH, developing partnerships with American organisations and raising awareness of the challenges facing Israel’s LGBT community.

For the past seven years JOH has held Pride events in Jerusalem, in the face of opposition from religious groups.

In 2005 a man stabbed three Pride participants and was subsequently sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The following year the venue was switched to a sports stadium following violent protests by rightwing opponents who consider the event “a profanity” of the Holy City.

Last year about 2,500 gays and activists marched down King David Street despite protests by thousands of people.

This year Israel’s Supreme Court yesterday rejected a petition to ban Jerusalem Gay Pride parade.

“It’s an honour and a humbling challenge to join ACRI, an organisation that has defined human rights in Israel for decades and has improved the lives of so many of the individuals living here,” Mr El-Ad said.

“That being said, many enormous challenges lie ahead, and I vow to do my utmost in the struggle for human rights in Israel, backed by the outstanding professional abilities and commitment of ACRI’s board and staff, and the support of our friends and members.

“Human rights must be respected, in Tel Aviv, Nablus, Jerusalem, and anywhere else.

“We must realise as human beings living in a democracy that our own rights are not, and cannot be, fully realised if the basic rights of all individuals are not respected.”

ACRI is the Israel’s oldest and largest human and civil rights group and is often compared to Liberty in the UK.