Israel’s Tel Aviv Holds Annual Gay Pride Parade
Drag queens, politicians, grandmothers and shirtless men descended on Tel Aviv in their thousands Friday to party in the annual gay pride parade, the 15th march to be held in an Israeli city that has emerged as one of the world’s most gay-friendly.
Loud dance music beat along the parade’s route, with rainbows painted on participants’ faces, arms and bellies. Drag queens in sequins and platform heels waved to the crowd from floats as scantily-clad men bopped and bounced to the music.
Tel Aviv has become a top destination for the gay community. Tourists from Brazil, England, Russia and elsewhere partied in the Tel Aviv parade alongside Israelis on Friday.
"We love Israel. We have come four times now. The people are so nice and open minded and so lovely to us," said a tourist from Germany who gave his name as Klaus, dressed in floppy orange hat with matching high heels. "There is a lot of energy here," Klaus said. Marching with his husband, Gerhard, he noted the warm weather and the fact that Tel Aviv has a beach as attractions.
Tel Aviv is one of the few places in the Middle East where gays feel free to walk hand-in-hand and kiss in public. The municipality spends some 2 million shekels (550,000 dollars) annually on the local community and on attracting gay travelers, Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai told Israeli Army Radio.
The first gay couple to wed in France, Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau, who tied the knot last week in a politically charged ceremony, are now honeymooning in Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv’s openness stands in contrast to Jerusalem, just a short drive away, dominated by strictly Orthodox Jews and with a much smaller gay scene. In 2005, an ultra-Orthodox protester there stabbed three marchers at a gay pride parade.