The sun beat down on the masses. The air was thick with humidity, shouts of joy, streams of water from supersoakers, and rainbow banners.
June is that time of year. The time of year the biggest party in the Middle East (and technically Asia) comes to Tel Aviv, Israel. Pride 2019 was nothing short of an incredible celebration of free love and expression.
The annual event was first held in 1993. Originally, it was an avenue to demonstrate and fight for equal rights and respect in the LGBT community. Radical thinkers of the time and champions of equal rights dominated the atmosphere.
By 2000, the Parade had evolved from being a political demonstration to more of a social-entertainment event and street celebration. This was largely due to the growing visitors from the international community.
Last year, the parade reached its highest number of participants nearing the quarter-million mark. This year, that number was eclipsed as over 250,000 people of all nations, creeds, colors, and orientations took part.
The parade began in Gan Meir (Meir Park), went down Bugrashov street and looped back to run the length of the beachside Shlomo Lahat Promenade (known as the Tayelit in Hebrew, meaning path).
As I moved through the crowd, camera in hand, I heard languages from across the planet. From the familiar English and Hebrew to Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Hindi, and many more, there was quite a global presence.
The majority of the crowd was elated, joyous, and there to celebrate PRIDE. However, as is customary in Israel, there was conflict and protest as well.
In recent months there has been a strong push by LGBTQ+ groups that are against what they call the “Pinkwashing” that they believe the Israeli government partakes in. This “pinkwashing” is to hide the fact that even though TLV is a gay-friendly and huge tourist destination, the actual laws in the state of Israel do not provide equal rights to homosexual couples.
There is also criticism that the Israeli government pours millions of Shekels into increasing the budget for gay tourism events, but that the funding for LGBTQ+ groups that are focused on activism and progressive legislature do not benefit from such budget funding.
Therein lies the conflict, and it’s an ever-expanding conversation being had across the internets, and as it were, in the streets on Parade day.
The sun was high as were emotions. While no serious skirmishes broke out, there were many police on hand. The police were there to ensure the demonstrators and parade participants did not escalate their differing opinions into violence. It was tense but ultimately peaceful for both sides.
Maybe the most talked about occurrence of this year’s parade was a famous celebrity appearance. Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother, otherwise known as Neil Patrick Harris (NPH), was in attendance.
NPH is one of America’s most beloved actors. He came to the parade with his husband David Burtka. Together, they are fathers to twins Harper and Gideon Burtka-Harris.
NPH was all over social media in TLV as he rode on a float down the parade route, dancing and celebrating along with those flooding the street. It was Harris and Burtka’s first time visiting the country of Israel. But after the reception they received, I can’t imagine it will be their last!
Here’s to another great PRIDE Parade in Tel Aviv!