(Video) - Thousands of people crammed into Gan Meir park in central Tel Aviv on Friday morning, as the annual Gay Pride Parade got underway with the customary party through the streets of the city.
The event kicked off in the park with musical performances, celebrity appearances and speeches by public figures such as Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, openly gay Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich, Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On and Hadash MK Dov Henin. Not all of the speakers were given a warm welcome, with Lapid even imploring the audience to stop booing so that he could talk about the event, rather than his ill-received economic policy. Even US Ambassador Dan Shapiro put in an appearance, wearing a Pride t-shirt for the occasion, telling the crowd that US President Barack Obama sends his "warm greetings".
"I am proud that Tel Aviv is the most gay-friendly city in the world," Huldai said, as he took the stage. Huldai is facing an election later this year, running against the popular Horowitz for the mayor's seat.
It isn’t just Israelis enjoying the festivities – organizers were expecting over 20,000 foreign tourists to arrive for the pride events, which will continue throughout June.
The main event is the Parade, which began at 1 p.m., and this year marks the 20th anniversary of pride in the city. Event organizers were predicting that this year's attendance would beat the some 100,000 or so who were present last year.
The parade, including a procession of floats and organized groups of marchers, accompanied by tens of thousands of supporters waving pride flags and enjoying the fine summer weather. The parade, with floats carrying DJs from the four main gay clubs – Evita, Shirazi, ADD and Dreck – exits Meir Park, travels down Bograshov Street, passes through Ben-Yehuda Street onto Arlosoroff Street, and ends with a beach party at Gordon Beach at 3 p.m., hosted by supermodel Bar Refaeli. The party lineup includes live performances by popular stars such as Omer Adam, Michal Amdursky and others, along with DJ sets by FFF, DRECK, Arisa, 3S0ME, Forever, Evita and Popring.
Additional pride parties are set to be held the entire weekend across town, kicked off by an opening reception at Beit Ha’ir. The exhibition “Night Stamp,” which marks 20 years of gay nightlife in Tel Aviv, will be on display.
From May 30 through June 6, Hilton Beach was decorated with gay pride flags, with chill-out music entertaining locals and tourists alike. The beach, which is popular among the local gay community and which was recently voted one of the top 10 gay beaches in the world, hosted some of the city’s leading clubs between midday and sunset every day that week. - JPost: Tel Aviv turns into a mass street party for Gay Pride
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