Tel Aviv Gay Pride parade: ‘Not an ugly man or woman in sight’

Welcome to Tel Aviv — the city where, today, love knows no bounds. Around 100,000 people are surging through Ben Yehuda street, dancing to the beat of the annual Gay Pride parade. (The Gay Pride event took place this year on June 7.)

A soldier walks past in the searing heat, dancing with a gun in one hand and a rainbow flag in the other. Men in pink hot pants walk side by side with couples wearing rainbow-colored kippot (skullcaps), while dance-fueled floats crawl through the center of this liberal and hedonistic city.

“Before my friends come to Israel for the parade, I get them to write down what they expect the country to be like,” says Shai Doitsch, a spokesman for Aguda, Israel’s national gay organization.

“Then on the final night, I get them to read out that statement. Invariably, they end up laughing because they couldn’t have been more wrong.”

An estimated 25,000 tourists are swelling the crowds at this year’s event, a figure that’s risen considerably in recent years.

They and native Israelis spill over the sidewalk, cooled by water sprayed from the balconies above.

Babies strapped to their parents wave more rainbow flags, while men with mesmerizing muscles shimmer down the street in vest tops and improbably short shorts.

Along with San Francisco, Sydney and Paris, Tel Aviv is one of the world’s gayest cites (around around 20% of the population of 403,000 people is gay, lesbian or transgender, says Doitsch). But the Pride Parade is a celebration not only of homosexuality but also of the diversity — of people, food, music –- that make Tel Aviv what it is.

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