Pride comes to Tel Aviv for the 21st time

Pride month has officially begun all over the world and it’s no different in Tel Aviv. Everywhere one goes, you can see rainbow flags lining the streets at every bar and restaurant.

By
June 5, 2019 16:48
Pride comes to Tel Aviv for the 21st time

ETAI PINKAS, Tel Aviv city councilman and LGBT community leader.. (photo credit: YOAV ARAD)

Hundreds of thousands of people from around the globe are expected to hit Tel Aviv for the annual TLV Pride celebration this month. Parties and events will be happening throughout the month of June culminating in the main event: the Tel Aviv Pride Parade on Friday, June 14.

Pride month has officially begun all over the world and it’s no different in the bustling city of Tel Aviv. Everywhere one goes, you can see rainbow flags lining the streets at every bar and restaurant.

Head down to Hilton Beach, where the Pride culture is felt all year long. The cabanas are painted rainbow to show Tel Aviv’s inclusive atmosphere. Here, and along any of the busy Tel Aviv beaches, you can find people from all over the world, from different backgrounds and of all sexual orientations.

Why Tel Aviv?

Many people would describe Tel Aviv as vibrant, a party and a place to lay at the beach, but what most people don’t realize is that Tel Aviv is also one of the biggest LGBTQ hubs in the world.

Recently, Hilton Beach – located in the north of Tel Aviv, next to the port – was just voted one of the best gay beaches in the world.
Not only is there a vibrant nightlife for the LGBT community, but there are also many different resources for olim and members of the community coming to Israel to visit.

The LGBTQ community center of Tel Aviv educates, produces events to bring gay and non-gay communities together, and works on pushing new legislation up through the Supreme Court in hopes of getting the same rights as the rest of the country when it comes to marriage and adoption. Tel Aviv’s community center is the first in Israel to be integrated within the municipality and receives government funding. It is essentially run as a city department with workers getting city salaries.

And Pride isn’t the only thing bringing the international gay community to Tel Aviv this year. You may have noticed an influx in tourists since Eurovision. And the number of tourists continues to grow as the summer continues to heat up as the Pride events take off. Nearly 20% of these tourists make the trip specifically for Pride every year.

Etai Pinkas, Tel Aviv city councilman and leader of the LGBT community, says he thinks Eurovision definitely helped with the exposure of not only Tel Aviv, but Israel as a whole, and showed the international world that Israel is a true tourist destination. He says this international event is not the only reason for the growing numbers, crowds have been expanding every year since the first Pride parade in 1998.

“Pride has continued to grow parallel to the growth of the parties and events themselves. We didn’t start off with 200,000 people back in 1998, we had maybe 1,000 marching. But then we had closer to 10,000 in 1999,” said Pinkas and the number has grown exponentially ever since.

As the LGBT community here continues to rise, so does the recognition of Pride month and more tourists are aware of the city of Tel Aviv and all that it has to offer – and not just when it comes to LGBTQ events. People know of the beaches, the people, the food and the Israeli culture and especially the nightlife.

Pride month has something for everyone.

“The nightlife here is very strong, both LGBTQ and straight people have fun during Pride here as well,” explained Pinkas. “The beaches are unique… it’s one of the only major cities in the world that have the beaches right downtown.”

Many of these tourists come once and then come again and again because they fall in love with Israel. Some of them even fall in love with Israelis and meet their partners at Pride, then decide to move to Israel.

Chris K., from Austria, is not Jewish but met his partner at Pride and fell in love with Israel. He’s been coming to Pride for years but officially moved to Israel three years ago. And surprising to some, he says that not only is Tel Aviv the spot for the LGBT community, but also Jerusalem – albeit a smaller community than Tel Aviv.

AGAINST THE backdrop of thousands, a 2018 Pride Parade attendee on a float shows off his Tel Aviv Pride flag. (Credit: ANAV SILVERMAN PERETZ)

When asked why he thinks so many people come to Tel Aviv for Pride, he said, “it’s an amazing event. It has a political meaning, and it stays kind of connected to the original Pride purpose, which in other cities of the world and other countries is less the case from my perspective.

“It’s also a big party, a week of big parties, a lot of people... it is very open, you can meet everything you can think of, every different kind of person you can think of, it’s really open and it’s really fun.”

Chris continued to say that he believes the community in Israel is open and friendly and it is easy to live here.

“It’s easy to find connections, it’s easy to find groups and people you can hang out with and do whatever you want... there is a certain amount of a transition period after moving here, but since I’ve lived here, I’ve had a good time,” he said.

Even though Pride is a week of parties and celebration, it’s also important to remember that Pride is a political statement and Pinkas wants to remind everyone that the LGBT community still has many freedoms to fight for.

Many accuse Israel of using the Tel Aviv LGBTQ community to “pinkwash” other human rights issues that may happen across the country.

“What’s going on in Tel Aviv is an achievement, in my eyes, of the Israeli society and the Israeli state,” Pinkas said. “It didn’t happen because of the government, but it’s here and it’s an achievement of our society. We can be proud of it.”

He says the city overall is very liberal and openly democratic, none of this is a “false show” but “the government is doing nothing about the promotion of our equality... we have been struggling for 10 years at the Supreme Court, the government is doing
everything possible to prevent us, same with adoption, same with equality of marriage and numerous registration of kids and lesbian couples, etc. The government is opposing all of these rights.”

He continues to say the majority of society is supporting the LGBTQ community here in Israel and even the majority of the Knesset members are supporting the community, but the haredim put the veto on it and no one else is taking responsibility for it.
Gay and lesbian couples can register as married if they get married outside of Israel, but they want the same rights as any other Jewish Israeli couple.

Events:

This year, things will be a bit different than in past years. The theme of Pride is “The LGBTQ Battle Continues,” along with the social media hashtag “outlaw.” Throughout the month of June, the Tel Aviv LGBTQ community will be hosting different events, along with all the crazy parties to get the community more involved.

These new events include a “Proud Mass Wedding” on June 4, the LGBT “Influential Conference” on June 11, and “Pink Thursday” on June 13.

On Sunday June 8, families will come together in Gan Meir for the annual LGBT family picnic. There will be fun activities for people of all ages and it is potluck-style, so make sure to bring a dish to share with others.

The wedding will have been the first gay wedding held in Israel in the Sharona Complex, with a special guest officiating. The Tel Aviv LGBT community center says the event is not just a struggle or a demonstration, but to show the country and the world it does not matter who you love.

Politicians, city council members, Tel Aviv residents and internationals will come together on June 11 for the first LGBT national conference. Pinkas says the event aims to discuss the concerns of Israeli citizens and to demand equal rights.

Thursday June 13, volunteers and demonstrators will be heading across the city handing out Pride flags to schools and businesses to stand in solidarity with students and community members who have been attacked for their sexual orientation. The community center is using this day to teach students in local schools about the dangers of LGBT-phobia.

Then get ready for one of the biggest parties in Tel Aviv, as more than 200,000 people march in the Pride parade. The parade will begin at Gan Meir and wind it’s way through the Tel Aviv streets to end at Charles Clore Park, on the sea. You can find people from all over the world, all dressed in crazy costumes, coming out to show their support or their personal Pride.


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