At the peak of Tel Aviv’s 16th annual Pride Parade kickoff in Gan Meir, navigating the balloon-lined roads of the park felt like swimming upstream in a river of thousands of brightly colored fish.
People of all ages, races, nationalities and sexual identities, many scantily clad and adorned in rainbow flags, crammed into the vibrant park-space in central Tel Aviv to listen to local musical performances, visit stalls of organizers and activists, hear an introduction from Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai, and show off the best of LGBTQ culture.
It is no surprise that this event was so heavily attended; the only state in the Middle East that does not outlaw homosexuality, Israel, and specifically Tel Aviv, is host to a large and vibrant LGBTQ activist community.
Many of these community members staffed and manned stalls relating to LGBTQ issues and triumphs. The stalls, which ranged from AIDS awareness and sexual health booths to a wedding ketuba and face painting station, handed out stickers and posters, hats and condoms to passersby, many of whom displayed the multicolored paraphernalia on their clothes and bodies.