More than a quarter of a million people from around the world gathered in Tel Aviv on Friday to take part in the largest ever pride parade in the Middle East.
Shirtless men in bow ties, drag queens and revelers waving Israeli and rainbow flags danced through the city streets, marking 20 years since Tel Aviv’s first pride parade and paying tribute to those who played a role in promoting LGBT rights and the image of tolerance for the community in Israel.
The turnout this year was the biggest ever in the parade’s 20-year history.
“Celebrating Pride in Tel Aviv is a beautiful celebration of gay rights and visibility in a region where many of the neighbors cannot live as their true selves or be who they were born to be, which makes it all the more special for this massive coming together in support of equality to be taking place in Tel Aviv,” said American TV host Andy Cohen, this year’s “International Pride Ambassador.”
Tel Aviv has been dubbed “the most gay-friendly city in the world” by Wow Travel and “Best Gay City” by GayCities.com, making the city’s Pride Parade one of the world’s leading LGBT events. Thousands of tourists visit Israel each year specifically for the pride festivities.
The parade began around noon with a kick-off party at Ben Zion Boulevard, featuring drag shows, speeches and high-energy music, before heading to Herbert Samuel Street (the Tel Aviv Promenade), and finishing at Charles Clore Park.
Colorful floats of different themes made their way through the closed streets, including one sponsored by the British Embassy in Tel Aviv with the theme of “Love is Great Britain”. Another float dedicated to veganism was attended by Israeli vegan leader Tal Gilboa, among others.
Rainbow flags and signs hung out of apartment windows across Tel Aviv, where many watched the spectacle from above.
The 2018 parade also featured Eurovision winner Netta Barzilai, who took Europe by a storm last month with her song “Toy,” which was performed on the parade’s main stage.
The parade marked the end of a two week-long pride festival which included events like TLVFest, the only LGBTQ film festival in the Middle East, and a special performance by the Israeli Opera honoring great divas, which took place at the NYX hotel, the official Tel Aviv pride hotel.
Celebrations continued throughout the weekend with massive parties, including one featuring internationally acclaimed DJ and gay icon Ofer Nissim, attracting tens of thousands of party-goers.