Lampposts across Tel Aviv have been flying rainbow flags for the past week in preparation for Friday’s 13th annual gay pride parade.

The parade, to be attended by thousands revelers from the Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) community and their straight friends, will start at Gan Meir Park on King George Street and wind its way through the city to Gordon Beach.

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Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police are not taking any wider than usual security preparations for this year’s parade but, like every year, they will deploy a strong police presence along the seafront with several thousand officers from the special patrol units and the border patrol.

Rosenfeld said that police felt that an incident last week in which a smoke grenade was thrown at a left-wing rally in Tel Aviv was an unrelated political incident and has not encouraged police to increase their presence for this year’s parade.

Though it has long been an accepted and welcome celebration in Tel Aviv, the pride parade in Jerusalem has been a matter of fierce, often violent contention, with GLBT activists and supporters pitted against religious conservatives.

“This year there aren’t any special ceremonies like the same-sex weddings held on the beach last year,” said Mike Hamel, chairman of the Israeli Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Association (GLBT), also known as 'the Aguda'.

But, he added, there will be a moment of silence held at Gan Meir for the victims of a shooting last August at the Bar Noar, a Tel Aviv counseling center for gay teens that left 2 dead and over 15 injured, and there will be a stand where people can make donations to help the survivors.

Hamel said that a month ago a new branch of the Bar Noar opened in Beersheva. “This is our answer to the attack.”

In regard to the Bar Noar shooting, Rosenfeld said there are no new developments in the case but that “police are absolutely investigating the case with the utmost seriousness.”

Hamel said he believes that this year’s parade will more or less be the same size as last year’s, but that some people will take part as a response to last year’s.

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