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.
The parade, now in its 23rd year, began at noon and wrapped up around 7 p.m..
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen kicked off the festivities by noting threats directed at other pride parades across Israel.
“We won’t let anyone feel afraid in our country, we will always provide protection to the people living in this country,” Cohen said.
“We won’t cave in to people threatening violence and terror, every such threat will be met with more budgets and investment.”
She also said her office was working on opening additional LGBTQ centers outside Tel Aviv.
עשרות אלפי חוגגים וחוגגות במצעד הגאווה בתל אביב שהשנה מתקיים באזור פארק הירקון ולא בטיילת ומרכז העיר כמו תמיד. משאיות, מניפות, דיג׳ייז ודגלים בכל צבעי הקשת.
המלצה לעוקביי שבמצעד, חם אימים. לא לשכוח לשתות מים. pic.twitter.com/ZJZTBGJAAd
— Bar Peleg (@bar_peleg) June 10, 2022
Participants in this year’s parade marched down Rokach Boulevard in the north of the city rather than along the traditional route in central Tel Aviv.
The change was reportedly due to the extensive construction work across the city as part of the new light rail system.
The march took off at the Sportek complex at Yarkon Park and continued down Rokach Boulevard until reaching part of the park where the main stage was set up.
Addressing the crowd, Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli started by noting the significance of the new route, which she said was used for the first-ever parade in Tel Aviv.
מצעד הגאווה תל אביב 2022
— ???????? איתי אלמוג-בר Itay Almog Bar (@itay_almog_bar) June 10, 2022
“The first time the parade left Shenkin [street] over 20 years ago it came here, and here were are, returning to march in pride. Nothing can beat that,” she said.
“But there are those who aren’t here with us because others are still trying to intimidate them and speak ill of them,” she said. “But we won’t let them! We simply won’t let them! Freedom, freedom of choice and the freedom to choose love – we will never give that up,” she stated to cheers.
חג גאווה שמח????️???? pic.twitter.com/sb83pkurOR
— יאיר לפיד – Yair Lapid???? (@yairlapid) June 10, 2022
Also in attendance, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid highlighted his efforts on behalf of the LGBTQ community, including the decision last year to hang a pride flag outside the Foreign Ministry for the first time. He recalled that far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir sent a letter to the attorney general demanding that the flag be taken down. “My response was ‘Who asked you?'” Lapid said to cheers from the crowd.
“We are winning the fight for the [LGBTQ] community but it is not over, we must continue to lead it because as long as there is one LGBT child in the periphery who needs our protection, we will march in their honor,” he said.
Natalie Moon told the Ynet news site that she’s a longtime pride-goer. “I was at the parades when we walked on the promenade and were spat on. Although we have made great progress, in recent years we’ve seen an increase in homophobia.”
“We see a global trend of people wanting to take our rights… this is their last blow, we will win. ”
Marcher Linoy Aharon said: “I came to celebrate pride and show my presence to actually fight for our rights as LGBT people in a country that unfortunately this year does not treat all citizens equally.” She said parts of her own family refused to come to her wedding earlier this year.
“As a married couple we constantly encounter things that make us feel unequal, but I came here to rejoice and say ‘thank you’ for what we have,” Aharon added.
Ahead of the parade, police urged the public not to enter the city by vehicle unless absolutely necessary.
Police said that the stretch of Rokach Boulevard between Sheetrit and Ibn Gabirol streets would be closed from 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m; the Bnei Ephraim\KKL junction would be blocked from 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Namir Road would be blocked from the Glilot junction to Shlomo Goren Street until 2:30 p.m, and the Rokach interchange would be blocked until 6 p.m.
The Ayalon Highways (Road 20) remained open to traffic throughout the day.
Police noted that parking would be prohibited throughout the parade’s route on Rokach Boulevard and advised the public to use one of several parking lots in Tel Aviv and nearby towns.
Participants were asked to use public transport to ease congestion in the area. From 5 p.m., special buses were to leave Rokach Boulevard every 15 minutes for the surrounding suburbs of Givatayim, Ramat Hasharon and Holon.
Ahead of the parade, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev said police and the Tel Aviv Municipality had taken measures to ensure the safety of participants.
“The Pride Parade in Tel Aviv is a holiday for the LGBTQ+ community, which symbolizes the uniqueness and openness of the city and brings Israel much respect around the globe,” Barlev said Thursday during a situation assessment. “The Israel Police, together with the Tel Aviv Municipality, are prepared to hold a fitting and safe parade.”
“I call on everyone who is interested to come and take part in this special celebration in Tel Aviv. Your safety is in good hands.”
Last year’s events marked the “largest parade of its kind held worldwide since the outbreak of COVID-19,” according to the municipality, and drew around 100,000 people.
Police said last year they arrested roughly 50 suspects throughout the day, including several who allegedly sought to harm the tens of thousands of revelers at the mass festival.
Pride parades in Israel are held under heavy police presence, particularly since 2015 when an ultra-Orthodox extremist stabbed to death 16-year-old Shira Banki during the parade in Jerusalem.