Gay Pride revelers take to the streets in Tel Aviv
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Gay Pride revelers take to the streets in Tel Aviv

Nation's largest LGBT rights event brings center of 'gay-friendliest city in the world' to raucous, festive standstill

  • Participants of the 17th annual Pride Parade in Tel Aviv on June 12, 2015. (Alexi Rosenfeld)
    Participants of the 17th annual Pride Parade in Tel Aviv on June 12, 2015. (Alexi Rosenfeld)
  • Two women embrace at the Tel Aviv Pride Parade on June 12, 2015. (Alexi Rosenfeld)
    Two women embrace at the Tel Aviv Pride Parade on June 12, 2015. (Alexi Rosenfeld)
  • The 17th annual Tel Aviv Pride Parade attracted more than 150,000 people, many of them from around the world. (Alexi Rosenfeld)
    The 17th annual Tel Aviv Pride Parade attracted more than 150,000 people, many of them from around the world. (Alexi Rosenfeld)
  • Attendees at 17th annual Tel Avv Pride Parade, June 12, 2015. (Alexi Rosenfeld)
    Attendees at 17th annual Tel Avv Pride Parade, June 12, 2015. (Alexi Rosenfeld)
  • Thousands attend 17th annual Pride Parade in Tel Aviv on June 12, 2015. (Alexi Rosenfeld)
    Thousands attend 17th annual Pride Parade in Tel Aviv on June 12, 2015. (Alexi Rosenfeld)
  • A drag queen sings during the annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, June 12, 2015. (AP/Ariel Schalit)
    A drag queen sings during the annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, June 12, 2015. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

Some 180,000 people marched through Tel Aviv’s streets Friday in the city’s 17th annual Gay Pride Parade, the nation’s largest and oldest gay pride event.

The parade, boasting trucks bearing DJs, dancers and drag performers, began at 11 a.m. local time as participants gathered at the city’s Meir Park. At noon, marchers began walking down some of the city’s busiest thoroughfares, ending at Charles Clore Park on the Mediterranean beach.

Of the estimated 180,000 participants, 30,000 are tourists, many of whom came to Israel to participate in the march, according to officials.

The event has become one of Tel Aviv’s most popular annual festivals. Streets and stores have been decorated with rainbow flags for days. Thousands of Israelis flocked to the city center to observe the parade, filling cafes and restaurants along the route to capacity.

“Welcome to all our guests from abroad to the gay-friendliest city in the world,” Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai declared at the event’s launch Friday morning.

“We’ve been through a lot,” he added. “In 17 years, we’ve achieved a different reality in this city, and also in Israel. I want to tell all the politicians, there is still a great deal of legislation that has to be passed to accept the gay community. We will continue to walk this path, and to support the pride parade.”

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The theme of this year’s parade was focused on transgender rights. Events like the parade are key to advancing recognition for the transgendered, Tel Aviv activist Elisha Alexander said earlier this week.

Elisha Alexander, a transgender activist from Tel Aviv (Courtesy Tova Shalmoni)
Elisha Alexander, a transgender activist from Tel Aviv (Courtesy Tova Shalmoni)

“As the parade approaches, more and more trans people are calling up to get help, to get support, so that’s what visibility does,” stated Alexander. “That’s the main goal of all these pride parades and things like that — it’s just to be visible, that we exist.

“I lived as a straight woman for 30 years,” Alexander added. “Most of the reason it took me so long was just because there was no visibility.”

Security was tight, with police deploying hundreds of officers and warning locals that no cars would be allowed to park along the parade route.

At a recent Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv (Omer Messinger/Flash 90)
At a recent Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv (Omer Messinger/Flash 90)

Major arteries in the coastal metropolis were shut at intervals as the march passed through the city, including parts of Tchernichovsky Street, Bograshov, Hayarkon, Frishman, Marmorek, Arlozorov and the Herbert Samuel beachfront promenade.

This year’s celebration featured Eurovision song contest winner and LGBT rights representative Conchita Wurst, who was to perform at Charles Clore Park after the march.

Luke Tress contributed to this report.

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