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Tel Aviv Pride Parade returns with fanfare after last year’s COVID cancellation

Heavy police presence secures the event in which tens of thousands are participating, as Health Ministry recommends wearing masks even at crowded outdoor pride festivities

  • People participate in the annual Pride Parade, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, June 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
    People participate in the annual Pride Parade, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, June 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
  • People participate at the annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, on June 25, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    People participate at the annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, on June 25, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • People participate at the annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, on June 25, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    People participate at the annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, on June 25, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • People participate at the annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, on June 25, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    People participate at the annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, on June 25, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • A participant pauses in the annual Pride Parade, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, June 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
    A participant pauses in the annual Pride Parade, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, June 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
  • People participate in the annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv on June 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
    People participate in the annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv on June 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride Parade kicked off at noon on Friday with tens of thousands of people taking part in the event.

The Tel Aviv Municipality said the parade is “expected to be the largest parade of its kind held worldwide since the outbreak of COVID-19.” This year’s event is the 21st in the city’s history, after last year’s parade was canceled due to the pandemic. Friday’s festivities will include six party trucks, dancers, DJs and a party following the parade at Charles Clore Park.

Hours before the parade was slated to begin, Israel reimposed its indoor mask mandate amid a slight spike in new COVID cases. The Health Ministry announcement also recommended masks be worn at crowded outdoor events, specifically mentioning the pride parade and other pride activities.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, who is himself openly gay, urged caution at the events.

“I’m asking all those celebrants at pride events: celebrate, enjoy, but listen to the instructions, so that we can keep everyone safe and maintain our normal routine,” said Horowitz. “Shabbat Shalom, happy pride and above all — health.”

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said the city welcomed the return of the celebration.

People participate at the annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, on June 25, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Pride events in Tel Aviv-Yafo are a long-standing tradition, centered on a message of equality, acceptance and human and civil rights,” said Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. “Tel Aviv-Yafo represents a warm home for all communities residing here, and is proud to be a groundbreaking city in its approach to the LGBTQ community and a source of international inspiration. This year, more than ever, we will celebrate together, march together, and fight together for equality.”

President Reuven Rivlin sent his blessings to participants.

“Dear friends in the #LGBTQ+ community. For the last time as president, I send you best wishes for pride month,” Rivlin tweeted. “Our hearts are open to you, even as we continue to fight for the fundamental right for everyone to be who they are. Bless you all!”

Ahead of the parade, Israel Police arrested a man from Tel Aviv who they say was planning to harm participants at the event. The man was caught with a taser, nunchucks and other items. Later, police reportedly arrested another six people who were plotting to attack marchers, including two who were operating drones. Later police detained a husband and wife from Beit Shemesh who attempted to force their way into the parade route and attacked police officers who prevented them from doing so. Two Palestinians without legal documentation to be in Israel were arrested on the beach in Tel Aviv near the parade route while carrying knives.

Police said they were deploying hundreds of additional officers to secure the parade route and direct traffic and road closures, “in order to secure the safety of participants and public order.” More than a dozen streets in Tel Aviv will be shut most of Friday in order to enable the parade route. Police are said to be using cameras, drones and a helicopter to maintain safety from the air.

People participate in the annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv on June 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Jerusalem Pride Parade was held in early June under heavy security. In 2015, 16-year-old Shira Banki was stabbed to death by an ultra-Orthodox extremist during the parade in Jerusalem.

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