Thousands march in Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride Parade

Police say 70,000 take part in parade, concluding in party at Gordon Beach with DJs and international guests.

Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade 2011 311 (photo credit: Yoni Cohen)
Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade 2011 311
(photo credit: Yoni Cohen)
Tens of thousands of people attended Tel Aviv’s annual Gay Pride Parade Friday afternoon, carrying colorful banners calling for equality.
“Being gay is ‘shaveh’ [worthwhile/ equal],” read the poster above the stage at Meir Park, where the parade began.
The event kicked off with a celebratory party in the park, complete with dancers, singers and drag queens.
Police closed streets along the parade route and near the beach, as the procession and street party got under way.
Organizers said that up to 100,000 people took part in the parade, but police put the number at some 70,000.
Police reported no unusual incidents of violence, and the parade concluded peacefully.
At the opening in Meir Park, opposition head MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima) told the crowd that all people have the right to be who they want to be, and the issue does not need to be politicized by the Left.
Quoting Israel’s Declaration of Independence, Livni said it is the responsibility of the government, and of all politicians, to protect the rights of all people.
“There are still many teenagers who fear the price of freedom is the love from their parents if they come out to them,” she said. “There are parents who are still prejudiced and unwilling to accept their children as they are.”
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) told the crowd that as a gay man, he could have only dreamed to be in a place like this when he was a teenager.
“We will expand the struggle so that anybody who wants to live his or her life on their own path can do that without fear of being cursed or hit in the street, without fearing being thrown out of their home, and without the fear of being harassed at work,” he said.
Thousands gathered in Meir Park before the parade began at 1:30 p.m., and then marched through Bograshov and Ben-Yehuda streets.
The celebration concluded with a party at Gordon Beach.
Some of the best DJs in town, as well as international guests, kept the beach party going until sunset.
Performers included Lovegang (Hamburg), Erez B.I., Samuel Blacher, Israel Aharoni, Ziona Patriot, Offir Malol, Shimai (Barcelona) and Oscar Loya (Berlin).
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai also spoke at the event and made a special announcement in English welcoming all the tourists who had travelled to the city especially for the event More than 5,000 tourists from abroad joined in the celebrations, said Shai Doitsh, a “Tel Aviv Gay Vibe” brand manager and national board member of the LGBT Aguda, the national gay organization.
The participants proudly waved their countries’ flags alongside Israeli flags and the traditional rainbow flags.
“We really are a gay city,” said Doitsh. “Gays are welcome everywhere.”
Erik Bojr, a Swedish tourist who traveled especially to Tel Aviv for the parade, told The Jerusalem Post: “The atmosphere is great here and everyone in Israel is so friendly.
There is a real sense of pride here and the people really know how to have a good time.”
Alionso Pantisano, who came from Italy, said he believed the spirit of the Tel Aviv parade, in which Palestinians also too part, could mark the beginning of a significant change in the region.
“The spirit here is infectious and it is only a matter of time until the rest of the Middle East follows suit,” he said.
Among the colorful and vibrant floats was one sponsored by a religious Jewish gay organization.
Events are planned throughout the week in Tel Aviv for tourists and locals, including club parties and a film festival at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque.
Tel Aviv is considered a major attraction for gay tourism, and was voted by Lonely Planet as one of the top three gay-friendly destinations in the world for 2011.
Jerusalem Post staff and JTA contributed to this report.