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LGBTI

Gay Pride parade lights up Tel Aviv, attracting more than 250,000 revellers

The good times in Tel Aviv contrasted sharply with events just 70km to the south, where Israeli fire killed at least four Palestinians during a mass protest along the Israel-Gaza border

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 June, 2018, 5:39pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 June, 2018, 9:50pm

Ripped men in white underwear, pink bunny ears and black bow ties gyrated through the streets of Israel’s Tel Aviv on Friday along with drag queens and others to loud trance music for the annual Gay Pride Parade – the biggest event of its kind in the region.

The Tel Aviv Municipality said over 250,000 people celebrated at the city’s 20th Gay Pride Parade, an event that draws people from around the world to party.

Cordelia Lange, from Germany, said Tel Aviv is “a very vibrant city, it’s a city that embraces everything connected to gays, lesbians and LGBT and I think it’s a combination of city at the beach and good vibes.”

The good times in Tel Aviv contrasted sharply with events just 70km to the south, where Israeli fire killed at least four Palestinians during a mass protest along the Israel-Gaza border.

The Islamic militant Hamas rulers of Gaza have staged the near-weekly protests since March 30. Over 120 Palestinians have been killed, drawing international criticism of Israel. With some protesters hurling firebombs and sending explosives-laden kites, Israel says it is defending its sovereign border, and accuses Hamas of trying to carry out attacks under the guise of the mass protests.

Israel has emerged as one of the world’s most gay-friendly travel destinations in recent years, in sharp contrast to the rest of the Middle East where gay culture is often not tolerated or even persecuted.

[Tel Aviv is] a very vibrant city, it’s a city that embraces everything connected to gays, lesbians and LGBT
Cordelia Lange, visitor

In Israel, homosexuals serve openly in Israel’s military and parliament, and many popular artists and entertainers are homosexual. Among Palestinians, most homosexuals tend to be secretive about their social lives and some have crossed into Israel to live safely.

Sahreef Awad, an Arab participant from Israel, said “There’s no difference between anyone, it’s just like, you know, culture, colour, nationality, it doesn’t matter, come one, it’s like, we are all people, that’s what matters, love is love, so love wins, yeah!”

Some critics have accused Israel of “pinkwashing,” or using its tolerance for gay culture to deflect criticism of harsh policies against the Palestinians.

Poland’s LBGT community celebrated a rainbow made of water and light in a Warsaw square as members geared up for the country’s largest pride parade.

Light projected onto water created a “water hologram” rainbow for four hours starting late Friday, getting people in the spirit for the yearly “Equality Parade” in the Polish capital Saturday afternoon.

The pride celebrations come as LGBT activists say a conservative turn in Poland is forcing them to fight harder for their rights, even though their hope of seeing same-sex marriage legalised has no real chance in the country now.

A record number of gay pride marches – 12 – are taking place across Poland this season, including five in cities having them for the first time. Some of the cities are considered conservative strongholds, like Rzeszow and Opole. Czestochowa, site of the nation’s most important Roman Catholic shrine, is also hosting a pride parade for the first time, on July 7.

“People are fed up with feeling like they are under a boot and being trampled down. And they are reacting, they are organising, they are resisting,” said Hubert Sobecki, president of Love Does Not Exclude, an LGBT rights group seeking to legalise same-sex marriage.

Homosexuality was long a taboo in Poland, though views have changed in recent years, with Poles in 2011 making history by electing an openly gay man and a transsexual woman to the national parliament. A more conservative turn came in 2015, when no left-wing parties made it into parliament and a conservative pro-Catholic party, Law and Justice, swept into power.

The rainbow water installation took place on the spot where a rainbow of artificial flowers was installed and then burned down seven times between 2012 and 2015 by nationalists and other opponents of LBGT rights.

“It was a symbol for us and it was really sad for us when it disappeared,” said Sylwia Chelchowska, a 20-year-old physiotherapy student who viewed the light-and-water show Friday night with friends.

She was volunteering in Saturday’s parade, saying “we have to show people that we exist.”

The light-and-water show was sponsored by Ben & Jerry’s, the US ice-cream maker that has been a long-time support of same-sex marriage rights.