The streets of Tel Aviv were filled with rainbow-colored pride flags on Friday as thousands of people were taking part in the annual Gay Pride March.
The festivities began at 10 a.m. with a community happening at Meir Park with musical performances, celebrity appearances and speeches by public figures such as Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz and Labor leader Shelly Yechimovich.
The parade itself began at 1 p.m. and included a procession of floats and organized groups of marchers accompanied by thousands of supporters waving pride flags and enjoying the fine summer weather. The parade will leave Meir Park, travel down Bugrashov Street then pass through Ben Yehuda Street onto Arlozorov Street, ending with a beach party at Gordon Beach at 3 p.m. Appearing on the central stage at Gordon Beach will be some of Tel Aviv's top DJs including Offer Nissim, Tal Cohen and Avihai Partok. Internationally recognized Israeli musicians Ivri Lider and Jonny Goldstein, the two main members of the pop-dance group The Young Professionals, will be hosting Uriel Yekutiel on stage.
A number of major streets were closed to traffic during the time of the parade including Bugrashov Street, Ben Yehuda Street between Bugrashov and Jabotinsky as well as parts of Arlozorov Street closest to the beach.
Thousands of tourists arrived in Tel Aviv over the past week to take part in activities gearing up to the main parade. Hilton Beach was decorated with gay pride flags and chill out music has entertained locals and tourists alike. The beach, which is popular among the local gay community, hosted some of the top DJs from the city's leading clubs.
This year the pride events were held under the banner "Pride Flags Countrywide." Though the central events are in Tel Aviv, everyone in the country should be able to walk the streets with pride, the Tel Aviv mayor's advisor on Gay Community Affairs explained recently.
"The message that we chose this year actually casts spotlight outside the city, on the periphery and the periphery's connection with Tel Aviv-Jaffa as Israel's secular and gay capital," Yaniv Weizman, who is also a member of the City Council, told reporters in Tel Aviv. "Most of the gays, lesbians and transgenders who currently live in Tel Aviv were not born in the city and have strengthened our pride by coming from all over the country."
Last year an estimated 100,000 people took part in the parade, carrying colorful banners calling for equality under the banner “Being gay is ‘shaveh’ [worthwhile/ equal]. Organizers expect similar numbers this year.