Tel Aviv, June 9 (IANS) More than 250,000 people took part here on Friday in Tel Aviv’s 20th anniversary Gay Pride Parade, the largest event of its kind in the Middle East.
The march unfolded in a festive atmosphere, with music and playful bursts of water pistols to celebrate gay rights in Israel, yet hundreds of police were on hand, Efe reported.
“I am a lesbian in Israel and I have come to support those who are like me, I think it is very important to come … so people know we exist,” Alina Berezon, a teenager from Haifa, said.
A small group of pink-clad protesters gathered near the procession to denounce the parade as a media stunt to burnish Israel’s international image as a supporter of liberal values in the Middle East.
“Israel uses the gay community to show the world that it respects human rights, while it denies the rights of millions of Palestinians, occupying their lands and killing the protesters in Gaza,” Zizo Abul Hawa, a Palestinian, said.
Tel Aviv Major Ron Huldai inaugurated the event with a short speech.
“I am proud to stand here before you. I remember how it was 20 years ago when we started this parade and I am thrilled to see the wide audience here in the street,” he said.
March organizers said that thousands of tourists joined the match, including some who came especially for the parade.
“We started to plan this trip since January. We have come to the Pride to enjoy the scenery and the people,” one half of a French same-sex couple visiting Israel for the first time said.