Tel Aviv: Tens of thousands of people gathered on the streets of Israel’s seaside city of Tel Aviv Friday for the largest gay pride event in the Middle East.
Men and women in colourful costumes, including several dressed as samba dancers, paraded through the streets on motorised floats or sashayed alongside. One float depicted a gym, with musclebound young men in shorts, and another held drummers and dancers.
Loudspeakers blasted dance tunes and favourites from last month’s Eurovision song contest, which was held in Tel Aviv.
Rainbow flags fluttered in the Mediterranean breeze alongside those of Israel and the United States.
Downtown streets were closed to traffic for the afternoon and a police statement said that ‘hundreds’ of officers would secure the route of the parade.
According to the Tel Aviv municipality –over 250,000 people participated in the march, which weaved though the city during the afternoon and ended at the seashore with a sunset beach party.
Mayor Ron Huldai said his city was proud of its large and diverse LGBTQ population.
“The Tel Aviv Pride parade is not just a celebration, but an important declaration of support and an opportunity to promote equal rights for all,” Huldai said in a statement.
Israel so far has the most open attitude to homosexuality in the Middle East, with a large and influential LGBTQ community.
Last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the appointment of Israel’s first openly gay cabinet minister, Amir Ohana.