“Tel Aviv-Yafo Loves All Genders” – Gay Pride Parade 2015
If there is one thing about Israel which I always was very appreciative of, it’s the contrasts.
Often people ask me why I live in Israel, and to be honest, it was never so much that I came here for the country, I came here for a guy who happens to be Israeli, so the choices weren’t that many or difficult at the time. However, after spending the last, almost six years here, I have grown fond of a lot of aspects of this country, while I have also learned to dislike other aspects. This is how it goes wherever you live in the world, I assume. So when people ask me why I live in Israel, when I could be living pretty much anywhere else, it’s not enough to say that the beaches are great and the weather is nice most of the year (although this is true), because many places in the world have beaches and sun.
The one thing that it does come down to in the end of the day, for me, is the contrasts within Israel. Such a small piece of land, with so much diversity in it. On one hand, it’s a country marked by religion, a country which history we can read about in the Bible, a country located in the middle of enemies, a country under constant threat, a country in conflict. On the other hand, it’s a country marked by innovation, by possibilities, by openness, and by being one of the worlds most popular destinations for gay tourism.
Yesterday was the day of the annual Gay Pride parade here in Tel Aviv, and this year the focus was on the transgender community, with the main message being: “Tel Aviv loves all genders”. It’s a huge event every year, and the preparations can be seen around the city weeks in advance; with all the streets, bars, cafés and restaurants being decorated with pride flags. Even though same-sex couples and transgenders are anyway a very normal sight in Tel Aviv during any time of the year, the numbers drastically increase during this week of celebration due to all the tourists that come here; everywhere you see gay couples of varying nationality holding hands and showing off their love openly and freely.
Over 100 000 people took part in the parade yesterday. Most of the streets of Tel Aviv closed down for traffic over the day, as the parade started early at noon and moved through the city like a giant colorful wave of celebration. After the parade itself ended late afternoon, the parties continue throughout the night. The whole city came out to take part in it, gay or not, because if there is a reason to celebrate and party, why not take it.
As a Swede, I am also proud to say that a big group of Swedes, including the Swedish ambassador, took part of the parade, with our blue and yellow flags, to show our support.
When put into perspective, one has to admit that it is fascinating how a city like Tel Aviv, located where it is, among neighbouring countries not known for being very gay-friendly, to say the least, has become one of the most popular destinations in the world for gay tourism. A city where everyone is allowed to be who they are and love whoever they want, openly and freely.
So in the end of the day, these are the main aspects for which I have learned to appreciate Israel (apart from the beaches and the sun). The diversity, the contrasts, and the openness to people’s differences, in a region generally marked by very different world views. Along with the fact that people of different religions, backgrounds, genders, sexual perferences, nationalities and ages will come together to show eachother support in important questions.
“Tel Aviv-Yafo loves all genders”