Life shined a huge rainbow onto me and made the stars, glitter, and rainbows align, giving me a chance to attend Tel Aviv Pride in Israel in 2017. It was a week-long excursion where we visited Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and other parts of Israel. The trip is still so fresh in my mind and my heart and the experience may have spoiled me on prides for none has stacked up to 1/2 of the love and emotions I experienced a half a world away.
Below is what I shared with our readers 2 years ago when I returned to the US. If there is any pride I would love to experience again, it is Tel Aviv Pride.
It’s been so hard to get back to work after being in Israel for a week. Mainly there to experience Tel Aviv Pride and to learn about the people and the culture of the great “White City,” I was also able to experience Jerusalem, The Dead Sea, and the Israeli countryside. We’ll get to all of that in another post, but let’s first focus on Tel Aviv PRIDE!
Hearing over again that Tel Aviv Pride was one of the top three LGBT celebrations in the world to attend, right up there with Madrid Pride and Sydney Mardi Gras, it was a no brainer that I would jump at the chance to be there in person to see it all. What would I find as I prepared to join 200,000 other Pride participants in the streets and along the beaches of Tel Aviv? What emanated from the city was a confidence, a sexuality, and a feeling of safety.
- Confidence was all around. People knew who they were. The city itself knew what it had. What was the city missing? We’re not sure, because it offered us so much. The citizens embraced their worth and their personal power. They were comfortable in their own skin and they knew that beautiful skin was theirs to own, to live in, and show the world. And as we know, confidence breeds confidence. When visiting Tel Aviv, I think it would be hard to be in a negative mood.
- The sexuality of the city was palpable. With all of the beautiful people strolling across the city, among the floats, and in the parks, everyone was gorgeous. Granted, it was pride and thousands of tourists were there from all over the world.
- As an American in a Middle Eastern nation, being safe did cross my mind … before the flight over. Once in Israel, it was clear than safety was not going to be a concern. During the celebration, there were soldiers on every turn of the road and in watch towers along the parade route and many at the final celebration. I felt more safe in this foreign land than during one of my more recent trips to NYC. Seeing troop on the Tel Aviv streets was comforting while having to navigate around armed forces to enter and exit US subways was more gripping.
The parade officially started in Meir Garden where groups participating in the parade set up around the dirt oval in the center of the park, giving parade viewers a chance to visit their booths, displays, and meet some of the colorful celebrants. The sights and sounds around the park were so uplifting and energizing, we all had perma-smiles.
One of the highlights of the day was watching this pride attendee dressed up as a Russian sailor as he showed us his moves and his flag dancing to the song “Let It B,” the theme for this year’s pride.
I actually still get a little emotional when viewing this as much as I was there at the park. I think what made this display of excitement and pride amazing was that I had met many people from Russia and other Eastern European nations that were dealing with the oppression in their home countries and had escaped to Israel and Tel Aviv. One parade attendee, a 16 year old boy from Ukraine was there with two other friends. They had come to Israel to seek a better life and not worry about survival because of their sexuality.
The “Russian sailor” was one of the many creative and spirited people at the park.
The parade itself was organized as well as free spirited. I had marched in several prides in the United States and our way of doing things was not how events were to unfold here in Tel Aviv. US pride parades are more structured and linear and programmed with this social organization here, that float there, that church group next and never shall they mix. Right from the beginning of the march, the American pride parade template was clearly not going to happen as people cascaded out of Meir Garden, first starting off in their groups, but they soon mingled with everyone and anyone that desired to walk in the parade, myself and friends included.
We were thinking that the parade of groups, social organizations, and the like would meet up with the larger commercialized floats once the crowd reached the beach. Nothing of the sort happened. The ocean of people spilled onto the seaside part of the parade route, enveloped the floats, the streets, the bike paths, and flowed down to Charles Clore Park. The floats, the traditional flatbed trucks with scantily clad dancers, gently made their way south along the Mediterranean shore line and helped the crowd maintain the love and excitement until the 200,000+ attendees made it to the main stage area.
With the assistance of a good friend from the Spartacus Gay Guide, I combined our pictures from the parade into a Tel Aviv Pride Video. I have a ton more, but may include them in another post or just keep them for my own personal pleasure. Philip and my pics are set to one of the earworm songs of the trip, Omer Adam feat. Arisa – Tel Aviv עומר אדם עם אריסה – תל אביב.mp3.
For more pictures of the parade, head over to Spartacus Gay Guide – Tel Aviv – Volume 2 . I didn’t pull from this volume for the above video. Check out Philip’s / Spartacus’s Volume 1 as well. There were some other very good pics I did not share.
That was my attempt at capturing a little bit of the excitement that was Tel Aviv Pride. Basti Hensen’s video of Tel Aviv Pride is a little more professionally done. He gave us permission to share his footage set to this year’s Pride Theme Song “Let It B”
Is Tel Aviv Pride a must see? I would say yes!
I’ll touched base in another post about how this American found the city, the rest of Israel, and its culture as well as what it was like being in the Middle East ( TRAVEL THURSDAY: An American Bear In Israel. Are Tel Aviv & Jerusalem Safe For LGBT American Travelers? )