Friday, June 10, 2011
Tens of thousands celebrate Gay Pride in Tel Aviv
Up to 70,000 people took to the streets of Tel Aviv to join in the annual Gay Pride parade on Friday as temperatures soared in the beachfront city.
The march, which was organised under the slogan: "It's good to be gay -- marching for social equality," kicked off under a blazing midday sun and wound its way to the seafront where organisers had put on a party featuring international DJs.
A festive atmosphere engulfed the city as bare-chested revellers danced through the streets waving the rainbow colours of the international pride movement as well as Israeli flags.
Many of those on standing on the floats were wearing elaborate or outlandish costumes, while others opted simply for hotpants and flower garlands as they gyrated to the thudding beat.
One float sporting slightly more conservatively-dressed revellers was that representing Jewish religious groups, with the women wearing long skirts as they waved to the crowds, an AFP correspondent said.
"I am religious and gay and a mother and a wife and a lesbian -- that is what I am," 34-year-old Zehorit Sorek told AFP.
"Religion can be very tolerant but it is society which doesn't accept me," she said.
The Tel Aviv city council put the turnout at more than 70,000, although police said just over 30,000 people had turned out for the event.
"There are just over 30,000 people but there have been no security incidents so far," said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, who said there were hundreds of police and border police volunteers on hand to secure the event.
Among those participating in the celebrations were more than 5,000 tourists including visitors from Holland, France, Britain, Russia and the United States, organisers said.
Tel Aviv has been hosting the annual parade for the past decade with relatively few objections from the country's religious community, unlike similar events in Jerusalem which saw violence and even one stabbing.
Israel is widely seen as having liberal gay rights policies, despite the hostility shown towards homosexuals, particularly men, from the ultra-orthodox Jewish community.
Israel repealed a ban on consensual same-sex sexual acts in 1988.