Tel Aviv (AFP) – Over 170,000 people took part in Tel Aviv’s Pride parade on Friday, a city spokesperson said, as the annual event inched towards pre-pandemic numbers.
Revellers in colourful outfits celebrated in the sweltering heat, waving rainbow flags and dancing to electronic music as floats slowly drove through the streets of Tel Aviv, seen as a rare oasis of LGBTQ+ tolerance in the region, AFP reporters said.
“It’s supposed to be about the fight for LGBT rights, but it’s more of a party. So… I enjoy the party,” said Liat Shana, 29, wearing a shiny green wig and matching eyebrows.
Aviv Gal, 28, who works in education, said it was “important” to show there are “so many people that want to get the rights for the gay community, and that we are actually equal”.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai noted that while members of the LGBTQ+ community in Israel continue to “face obstacles”, things were looking up.
“Conversion therapy was completely banned, gay men are now able to donate blood, and surrogacy for same-sex couples has now been legalised,” Huldai said at the parade’s launch.
A spokesperson for his office estimated over 170,000 people participated in the event.
“Tel Aviv has always been and will always be a welcoming home to all trans people, lesbians, gay men, queer people and non-binary folks,” he said. “Here they will always matter, here they are always welcome.”
Attendance at the parade in 2019 was around 250,000, while last year some 100,000 revellers participated in the city’s first Pride event since the Covid-19 pandemic.
Israel has the most open attitude to homosexuality in the Middle East, with a large and influential gay community, particularly in Tel Aviv.
But some members of the LGBTQ+ community accuse Israeli authorities of “pinkwashing”, or using their cause in an effort to give a liberal veneer to an image tarnished by Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.
Conservative Jerusalem held a small Pride March last week under heavy security.
A 2015 Pride event in Jerusalem ended in tragedy when an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man stabbed a 16-year-old girl to death and wounded several others.