Five gay couples tie the knot at TA Pride 2009

MK Horowitz: This is an historic day in Israel. Sadly, it can only happen in Tel Aviv.

Gay wedding 248.88 (photo credit: Ricky Ben-David )
Gay wedding 248.88
(photo credit: Ricky Ben-David )
Five gay couples exchanged wedding vows and rings in front of thousands of people at Gordon Beach during the Tel Aviv Pride Parade 2009 on Friday. The group wedding, the first of its kind in Israel and a new addition to the annual parade, was reportedly held in honor of Tel Aviv's centennial celebrations. Though the day when their unions are legally recognized is probably years away, two male couples and three female couples were wed by Gal Ohovensky, the openly-gay musicographer and one of the judges on the popular show Kochav Nolad, Israel's version of American Idol. Israeli singer Ivri Lider, an iconic figure in the gay community, played his hit song "Zachiti Le'ehov" [I was fortunate to love] before introducing the couples. Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai was also on hand to show his support for the gay community in their pursuit for marriage rights. "I am so honored to be here," he said. "I want to stress that a solution must be found for people who wish to get married in Israel outside the bounds of the Orthodox framework" which controls all Jewish wedding ceremonies. MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), an openly gay member of parliament who has also made legislation of gay rights a central issue during his term, also spoke to the crowd. "This is an historic and important day in Israel. It is sad that such a thing can only happen in Tel Aviv and one day people will be able to get married all over Israel. Mazal tov to the couples and I congratulate the city of Tel Aviv for this moment." The couples used their own poems and vows to address their loved ones and thousands cheered and clapped as they broke the glass after reciting "If I forget thee, oh Tel Aviv," a take-off on the traditional verse "If I forget thee, oh Jerusalem," found in Psalm 137:5 and traditionally recited at Jewish weddings. Gustavio and Fabian, an Argentinean couple in their early 40s, one of the five couples wed, told The Jerusalem Post, "We've been together 17 years. This is just a ceremony to us, we already feel married. All you need is courage and love. It's great to get married in Israel. We moved here nine years ago and although we could have legally married in Argentina, we chose to get married here, in the country where we have built our lives. Now the next chapter is kids." Each bride/groom received a "Certificate of Union" prepared and signed by Israeli advocate, human rights activist and founder of New Family Organization, Irit Rosenblum, a champion of civil marriage rights in Israel. The certificates look like photo ID cards and contain the name of the cardholder, the partner's name, ID number and a short declaration signed by the owner of the card and Irit Rosenblum herself. The certificates, according to the New Family Organization, are an expression of the commitment made by the couple and testify that they "have the same rights as any other married couple. The card… provides for legal and public recognition of the union." The certificates are recognized by Tel Aviv, Lod and Mevaseret Zion, according to the New Family Organization. Rosenblum handed out the certificates, shouting the fiery chant "Freedom! Love! Equality," bringing a slice of the French revolution and its "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" slogan to the Tel Aviv beach. Throughout Tel Aviv Friday, thousands of bikini-and-sequins clad minions, drag queens, muscle-bound guys in Speedos, a partial cast of the playRent and thousands of heterosexual party-goers marched in the Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade, showing the solidarity and joie de vivre inherent to the Tel Aviv "bubble." People from nearby cafes and stores came out to watch the parade, which started at Gan Meir on King George Street and ended at Gordon Beach, where a massive party took place until the late evening hours. The celebrations then continued at various nightclubs across Tel Aviv. Thousands danced, marched and cheered to trance and mixed Israeli dance music. Obama-mania was still alive and kicking as the wildly-popular US president's inauguration speech played to rhythmic beats with the "Yes, we can" slogan serving as the refrain. Organizations and causes from across the spectrum were represented at the parade, from Meretz and Amnesty International to two bearded gurus from the Intelligent Design movement Rael. T-shirts, rainbow flags and various stickers were on sale, while sponsors handed out free condoms, drinks and gay-themed gag gifts. Two foreign workers from an Oriental restaurant on Rehov Bograshov, originally from the Ivory Coast, who have been in Israel for two years, said they would never have seen something like this back at home. "It is strange but it looks like a lot of fun. It's part of life," they told the Post. Arik Alper, the openly-gay pediatrician who shot to fame as the winner of Survivor: Pearl Islands told the Post "I've been going to these events for over a decade but this is the first time as a celebrity. There is so much representation now of the gay community on TV, both in reality and drama series. This event is so important because it is the only gateway for a lot of people in Israel who don't live in such an open city as Tel Aviv." Organizers of the 11th annual parade were delighted with the turnout and boasted that this was the biggest parade yet, with rumors spreading that as many as 30,000 people attended.