REVELERS DIP in the Mediterranean Sea as they take part in a Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv last year.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
American television personality and the Tel Aviv Pride 2018 Ambassador Andy Cohen gushed about his first experience of Pride week in Israel, at an international press conference at the official Pride hotel, NYX, on Thursday night
"It's so great to be here.. I live in New York City and this is my first but definitely not my last time in Tel Aviv," he enthused. "I am a proud gay Jewish man and the only gay host in late night TV. I have been struck by how incredible it is, not only to be here, but as a proud gay Jewish man surrounded by my people."
"It's also an amazing thing seeing gay pride flags flying everywhere next to the flag of Israel," he added. "Celebrating Pride in Tel Aviv is a beautiful celebration of gay rights and visibility in a region where many of the neighbors cannot live as their true selves or be who they were born to be, which makes it all the more special for this massive coming together in support of equality to be taking place in Tel Aviv."
“This celebration is a beacon for our community in the Middle East and an incredible statement of love and acceptance of LGBTQ people from around the world,” Cohen concluded.
Also addressing the gathering were Anat Shihor-Aranson, spokesperson of the Israel Ministry of Tourism; Dr. Efrat Tolkowsky, a City Council member and Shimon Shirazi, introduced as a "nightlife legend."
Shirazi was one of the people who started the first gay rights demonstrations in Israel, he created a "pirate" pride float in 1996, two years before Pride was an official event, and he founded the prominent gay club Playroom in Tel Aviv.
"1998 was the first Pride parade and it was amazing and it grew and I can't believe what it has become," he said, assuring the crowd that the party won't stop until Sunday morning.
The theme of this year’s event is “the community makes history” as the LGBTQ community celebrates three historic milestones: 10 years to the founding of the Gay Center in Tel Aviv, 20 years to Tel Aviv’s first Pride and 70 Years of Israeli Independence.
In keeping with the growing number of participants in the parade every year, the Tel Aviv municipality is expecting record numbers this weekend - more than then 200,000 that attended last year.
In light of this expected increase in participants, it has changed the starting spot of the parade from the usual location of Gan Meir to the corner of Ben Zion Blvd and Melchet street.
The Pride march is the culmination of a week full of various events including workout events, pool parties, street parties, an LGBTQ film festival, a Pride fashion event, a gay family picnic, an LGBTQ art exhibition and a drag queen event.