Quarter of a million people celebrate Tel Aviv’s 20th Pride Parade

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.

Slovak tourists in Tel Aviv for the LGBT parade in 2018  (photo credit: TAMARA ZIEVE)
Slovak tourists in Tel Aviv for the LGBT parade in 2018
(photo credit: TAMARA ZIEVE)
The streets of Tel Aviv burst with rainbow- colored decorations, high energy and pumping music as Israelis and tourists alike streamed through the city on Friday to celebrate the annual LGBTQ Pride Parade, with a record 250,000 people participating, according to the Tel Aviv Municipality.
The theme of this year’s event was “The Community Makes History,” in recognition of three milestones: 10 years since the founding of the Gay Center in Tel Aviv, 20 years since Tel Aviv’s first Pride Parade and 70 years of Israeli independence.
“I am proud to stand here before you,” Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai told the crowd at the official launch of the event. “I remember how it was 20 years ago when we started this parade, and I am thrilled to see the wide audience here in the street, the atmosphere and the freedom that is felt here.
“We have marched for 20 years and we have made a lot of progress, but we still have a way to go... we will walk together and we will break down the barriers of hate, of separation [and] of legislation, and we will reach a situation where – in the free and sovereign State of Israel – every human being will be equal.”
The march, Huldai added, says: “We are here and we won’t stop marching until we achieve our goal.”
From Ben Zion Road, revelers made their way to the beach promenade, where floats of different themes awaited them.
Watching the floats go by, Adi Jurman, from Ramat Gan, told The Jerusalem Post that for her, the significance of the event was “being whoever you want to be without feeling any guilt or criticism – and being free.”
“The Tel Aviv Pride Parade is the best,” said Slovakian tourist Tibor Dezso. A group of Slovaks sitting at a cafe on the beach told the Post that they had traveled to several countries to participate in pride parades and have returned to Israel for the second time.
“Tel Aviv is the best because of the good weather, the open-minded people, and the whole spirit and atmosphere of the city,” Dezso said. His friend Peter Gehdos chimed in by saying the beautiful people were another attraction.
He also remarked that he found Slovakian people to be less open-minded than people in Tel Aviv.
Another visitor, Vlado Sul, said he felt very safe in Tel Aviv, which he found surprising in light of the perception he had acquired from the media before visiting Israel.
But Tova Dinkin, an American citizen living in Israel, said she preferred the New York event, which she feels is more of an organized parade, as opposed to the Tel Aviv march which is more of a sprawling street party.
The final stop of the party was Charles Clore Park, where Eurovision Song Contest winner Netta Barzilai performed, along with other Israeli and international artists.
The parade marked the end of a two-week-long festival which included TLVFest – the City’s international gay film festival; a LGBT cultural lineup of events; a special show by the Israeli Opera honoring “the great divas” that took place at NYX; and tributes to key historical figures from the LGBT community.
Celebrations continued throughout the weekend, with massive parties – including one featuring internationally acclaimed DJ and gay-icon Ofer Nissim – attracting tens of thousands of people.
At a press conference held on the eve of the parade, American television personality and the Tel Aviv Pride 2018 Ambassador Andy Cohen gushed about his first experience of Pride Week in Israel.
“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 on 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.”