Gathering for the 2014 Gay Pride Festival in Tel Aviv's Gan Meir, June 13, 2014..
(photo credit: CAROLINE FRANK)
Gan Meir bleeds rainbow for 16th annual Gay Pride Parade.
I wake to the banging of drums and Britney Spears' Baby One More Time ricocheting through King George Street. Next door, Gan Meir is alive. Tel Aviv's 16th annual Pride Parade has begun. It's a sea of rainbow. Everywhere I look there are stalls filled top to bottom with rainbow paraphernalia - balloons, stickers, wristbands, ribbons and hundreds if not thousands of flags are being sold all around. A teenage boy sporting "Let's get one thing straight: I'm not" across his chest catches the corner of my eye.
Tamir is 16 and came from Jerusalem today for Tel Aviv's annual Pride Parade. "I came out last year with my boyfriend. I feel wonderful," he says. "Everything is very good and it's exciting to be here today. Everybody photos us and everything. I love it." Video: Caroline Frank
His friend Achinoam, also 16, has bright rainbow-painted lips and has the same bold phrase emblazoned across her chest. She tells me pride is about freedom, love and respect. "Don't be scared. Accept yourself as you are. Do what you want and love yourself," she says.
Making my way through the crowd I see a couple of tourists taking in the colorful ambiance. Ann Lazar (57) and her husband are in town from Melbourne, Australia for a wedding. "It just happened the gay parade was here too and as soon as we heard we were so excited to come and have a look. I think it's amazing. The parade in Melbourne is nowhere near as big as this. This is electric, it's absolutely fabulous," she says.
Michael Jackson's powerful voice bounces around Gan Meir. I walk to the side of the park to discover a jumping castle with a creche overflowing with rainbow everything. Same sex couples flock through the doors with their children in tow ready to play. It is a family affair, far different from the flamboyant, sexually provocative imagery I am familiar with the pride parade back home in Perth, Australia. Michal Izahargelder (30) is next to the bouncy castle with her one-year-old daughter Noa. "We came today with our daughter because it's important to celebrate this event to show all the people in Israel that we have the same family as everyone else," she says. Michal tells me about her hopes for Noa's future, that she will not have to deal with discrimination because she has two mothers. "I hope my daughter faces less trouble, less looking when both us mothers are around," Izahargelder says. "In the last years lots of families come to the Pride Parade. My hope is we have similar laws for everyone - I hope for equality."
Back at the main stage a drag queen performs "Let it Go" from Disney's film Frozen. Clad in a black see-through cape and bright red hair, the crowd is mesmerized by her presence. Yesh Atid's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transexual wing chairwoman Zehorit Sorek is handing out flyers nearby. The music shifts and The Spice Girls' Who do you think you are? plays while we chat. "As the second biggest party in the Knesset we are the only one that promotes 3 laws and one rule for the LGBT community," she says. One of our main rules is about surrogacy where a woman can have a baby for same sex couples in Israel. The other main rule is about civil marriage - the law that any two persons that want to have a wedding ceremony can have it," Sorek says. "It's important and our law says that it doesn't matter who you are that if you are two people who want to commit and be together you can do that."
Standing beside Sorek, dressed head-to-toe in rainbow, is 18-year-old Shiry Aran. "It's important for people to see we are here and proud and not shameful of who we are," she says. "I love who I am. I've painted my face rainbow, it's important to me to show everybody who I am."
The last person I meet is 72-year-old David Berg. Having made aliya from San Francisco four years ago for the gay community of Tel Aviv, he tells me that there's an enthusiasm that exists here that reminds him of New York in the 70s. "I made aliya here and it helped me to realize that I could follow my dream because I have always been a Zionist. The important part of my Jewish identity is my love for Israel."
"Right now I think we have more support here than we have ever had in years that I experienced in San Francisco and I'm glad I moved."
The crowd soon dispersed through the park, out to Bograshov Street where the parade began in full swing.