Tel Aviv was draped in rainbow colors Friday morning, and many of the city’s streets were closed off as tens of thousands of revelers took part in the annual Gay Pride parade.
Loud music blasted along the parade’s route, thick with people dancing to the beats and waving rainbow flags. Drag queens wearing heavy makeup, dresses with sequins and high heels bounced along to the music alongside scantily clad men and women.
The procession set off at 12 p.m. from Bograshov Street and will pass through Hayarkon, Frishman and Herbert Samuel streets before ending with a party at Charles Clore beach, on the border with Jaffa. All roads were expected to reopen by 7 p.m.
The parade caps off a week of events comprising the city’s annual Pride week. The 2014 celebrations will include performances by prominent musicians and the 2014 Tolerance Awards ceremony.
Long known as a gay-friendly city, Tel Aviv was voted the world’s top gay travel destination for the year 2011 in a survey by American Airlines and GayCities.com.
According to The Daily Beast, some 100,000 gay tourists are expected to arrive in Tel Aviv this year, drawn by the city’s massive marketing push as a gay-friendly, Sabbath-breaking, free-loving hotspot on the beach.
It’s all part of a carefully crafted plan by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who decided several years ago to push Tel Aviv’s image as both pink and peaceful, and was able to secure about a quarter-of-a-million dollars from the city’s tourism budget as part of the plan.
“We are trying to create a model for openness, pluralism and tolerance,” Huldai later told the Associated Press. “Live and let live — this is the city of Tel Aviv.”
On Tuesday a rainbow flag indicating support for the LGBTQ community was raised over the US embassy in Tel Aviv for the first time, according to US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.
“For the first time in history,” wrote Shapiro on his Facebook page, “the US Embassy in Tel Aviv has raised the Pride flag together with our American flag. We are proud to join with the municipality of Tel Aviv-Yafo and its residents in celebrating LGBT Pride Week.”
The Jewish Agency came out on Friday too. Spurred into action by a group of LGBT immigrants in Tel Aviv, the agency, which in March launched its LGBT group “Coming Out, Coming Home,” was set to join dozens of other gay-friendly organizations at the annual Gay Pride Happening in Gan Meir park before marching with its own branded banner in the day’s parade. It marked the first time the Jewish Agency would hoist its own banner in the parade.
AP, Debra Kamin and Lazar Berman contributed to this report.