The streets of Tel Aviv were filled with rainbow-colored pride flags on Friday
as thousands of people joined in the annual Gay Pride Parade.
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, Labor chairwoman Shelly
Yechimovich and US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro.
“I love you,” Yechimovich
told the crowd. “I have fought for you for years as part of the ongoing struggle
for unity. I believe that you, as courageous and conscious people, must take
part in the struggle for a just society.
“The fact that you are here in
the tens of thousands, proud, fighting and unafraid, should not be taken for
granted,” she added.
In a rare public appearance since being ousted from
her position as leader of the Kadima party in March, Tzipi Livni praised US
President Barack Obama for his recent statement of support for the lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender community to legally marry.
“This year the
United States ambassador was invited to the festivities, and he arrived. And
this is no coincidence,” Livni said.
“I have a feeling that he was
invited in order to symbolize and strengthen [US] President Obama’s decision to
recognize same-sex unions.
“The decision was not taken lightly, even in
the United States. But there they have a leadership that knows how to make
courageous decisions even at a political cost. And that is what is necessary in
Israel as well,” she said.
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 June weather.
parade set out from Meir Park, traveled down Bograshov Street, then passed
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 were some
of Tel Aviv’s top DJs including Offer Nissim, Tal Cohen and Avihai
Internationally recognized Israeli musicians Ivri Lider and Jonny
Goldstein, the two main members of the pop-dance group The Young Professionals,
hosted Uriel Yekutiel, another famous performer, on stage.
A number of
major streets were closed to traffic during the time of the parade including
Bograshov, Ben-Yehuda between Bograshov and Jabotinsky as well as parts of
Arlozorov closest to the beach.
Thousands of tourists arrived in Tel Aviv
over the past week to take part in activities gearing up to the the 14th annual
parade, marking the end of Pride Week celebrations. 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 adviser on gay community affairs
“The message that we chose this year actually casts a
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, 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.”
year, an estimated 100,000 people took part in the parade, carrying colorful
banners that read “Being gay is shaveh,” the Hebrew word that means both
“worthwhile” and “equal.” Organizers expected similar numbers this year.