Tel Aviv Pride Parade held with 250,000 attendants celebrating LGBTQ

Tourists from far and wide come to celebrate and continue the fight for LGBTQ rights in Israel.

By SYDNEY DENNEN
June 16, 2019 15:13
Tel Aviv Pride Parade kicks off, 2019.

Tel Aviv Pride Parade kicks off, 2019.. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)

 
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Some 250,00 people turned up for Tel Aviv Pride on Friday afternoon, with the parade showcasing 14 floats with people celebrating their sexuality.

Voted the world’s “Best Gay City” by GayCities.com and “The Most Gay-Friendly City in the World” by Wow Travel, Tel Aviv’s Pride parade is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading LGBTQ events, attracting thousands of visitors from around the globe.

The parade marked the end of a month-long festival which included TLVFest – the city’s international gay film festival; a LGBTQ cultural line-up of events; a special show by the Israeli Opera honoring the Eurovision hits, which took place at NYX, the official Tel Aviv pride hotel; and tributes to key historical figures in the LGBTQ community.

Friday’s event started on Ben Tsiyon Street with the “Happening,” where drag queens and kings put on a performance. Local LGBTQ businesses set up booths to talk to locals and tourists alike about their lives in Tel Aviv, and emphasized the condition of the LGBTQ community not just in Tel Aviv but throughout Israel.

And this year, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and straight people marched through the streets of Tel Aviv to also advocate for the rights of those living in Israel without equal rights.

Tomer Versace, one of the drag queens performing, told The Jerusalem Post that the day represents “free love, freedom. You can be whoever you want to be without judgment and without hypocrisy. It’s all about acceptance.”

Participants marched from Gan Meir to Gordon Beach and then to Charles Clore Park. Police were stationed along the route to ensure safety and crowd control.

The parade was an opportunity for people to celebrate their identity, but the parade was also considered a celebration of Tel Aviv’s success.

Participants taking part in the Tel Aviv pride parade 2019. (Sydney Dennen)


“What’s going on in Tel Aviv is an achievement, in my eyes, of Israeli society,” said city councilman Etai Pinkas, noting that the city and the parade reflected reality. “It didn’t happen because of the government, but it’s here and we can be proud of it. Showing it is not telling a lie. On the other hand it’s very convenient... but the government is doing nothing – nothing! – about the [LGBTQ] community’s equality.”

According to Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, “Tel Aviv, which has already been acknowledged as the world’s ‘most gay-friendly city’ and as a beacon for liberty, pluralism and tolerance, is proud to be home to a large and diverse LGBTQ population. The Tel Aviv Pride parade is not just a celebration, but an important declaration of support and an opportunity to promote equal rights for all. We will continue to support and celebrate our local LGBTQ culture and act as a welcoming destination for the international gay community.”

In solidarity with the event, the US Embassy branch office in Tel Aviv decorated its building with rainbow flag banners. A photo of the building decked out in two rainbow banners and rainbow streamers was published on the US Embassy in Jerusalem’s official Twitter account on Thursday.

American actor Neil Patrick Harris was in attendance at the parade as its international ambassador. This was his first trip to Israel and he brought along his husband, David Burtka. Harris is best known for his portrayals of Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother and as the kid-doctor on the 1980s TV show Doogie Howser, MD.

“Tel Aviv Pride has become an important symbol of LGBTQ visibility and acceptance on the world stage,” Harris said in a statement. “We are excited to visit Israel for the first time, and honored to be a part of this beautiful celebration, to stand with the LGBTQ community both in Israel and across the globe, especially as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of [the] Stonewall [riots].”

Tel Aviv’s pride parade did not only attract LGBTQ locals. Ruby Callen, from Pennsylvania, is not Jewish but came all the way to Tel Aviv to celebrate. She said she is a strong supporter of Israel, and fell in love with the country when she came to study the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with her school.

“I immediately fell in love with Israel and am super passionate about it,” she said. “I also came out at the same time as my first trip to Israel... and it was a life-changing moment.”

For the last two weeks, different events have been happening all over Tel Aviv in celebration of Pride Month, while incorporating the theme of “The Struggle Continues.”

Each night featured different parties – in night clubs, bars and on Hilton Beach – drag shows, movies and activities to entertain tourists and Tel Avivians alike.

This year Birthright Israel got involved in Tel Aviv Pride, with 300 participants taking part in the parade, according to Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark.

Along with its typical programs, Birthright Israel is coming up with creative ways to get young Jews from the Diaspora to visit Israel. Birthright now offers trips focusing on being active, the country’s culinary scene, arts and culture, and an experience for those who identify as LGBTQ.

The LGBTQ trips complement the typical Birthright experience. They all tour the country’s iconic sites – including like the Old City of Jerusalem, Masada, the Dead Sea, the Golan Heights and Yad Vashem – but the LGBTQ trips add activities for those young Jews who identify as part of the LGBTQ community.

The Jerusalem Post spoke to one of these LGBTQ Birthright groups on Thursday to hear why these participants chose to come on this type of trip.

“I thought it would be a really good opportunity to take a further step and increase my capacity to bond with peers in terms of our religion and also in terms of our sexuality in a way,” said Zach Wolfenson. “Not the same, clearly, but we all come from very similar situations and difficulties... It’s a way for me to enter a completely new, foreign place and make a lot of new friends and connect on this sort of thing.”

Ariel Berry, who is currently leading their third Birthright group as a staffer, took part in the parade this year. Identifying as gay and non-binary, Berry was raised in an atheist household but is now traditional. They said they want young Jews struggling with their identity – whether it be their sexuality or their gender – to know “that they can find a way to collaborate their two identities – being Jewish and queer. You don’t have to choose one or the other, and sacrifice part of yourself.”

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