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Jerusalem Gay Pride parade takes place in quieter atmosphere

This year’s Jerusalem Gay Pride parade and solidarity event appears to have taken place Thursday without the violence and counter demonstrations that have marred this now annual event. Although some 5,000 participants have been expected, the actual number may wind up to be more like 2,500; and even the police presence was much smaller than in previous years, when as many as 12,000 police were on hand.

Gay Pride Jerusalem 2009This year’s march, which culminates June Gay Pride Month in Israel, is taking place from the Liberty Bell Garden, in the heart of city, and winding up in Independence Park (near the Knesset) where an evening rally will take place. The Holy City has been the scene of some unpleasant demonstrations in past years by the city’s ultra-orthodox Jewish community, with even some participants being stabbed during the 2005 parade. Jerusalem police had placed undercover police offices to mingle with the crowd in case any problems develop, according to police spokesperson Shmuel Ben-Ruby. A small demonstration of religious objectors to the “abomination” of the event was also said to be taking place, in Shabbat Square in the Meah Shearim neighborhood (an ultra-orthodox stronghold) and at Paris Square.

Jerusalem has been on edge recently since thousands of ultra-orthodox or haredi men rioted in protest to a parking lot being opened on the Sabbath to accommodate weekend visitors to the city. Further disturbances have been expected, should the city decide to make another attempt to re-open the lot, which is located beneath the Jerusalem Municipality building and is primarily intended for use by tourists who want to visit the Old City.

Although the parade and Gay Pride rally is intended by its organizers, Open House, Jerusalem’s gay and lesbian center, various religious groups, including Christians and Muslims, have been against such events being staged in Jerusalem. And a public opinion poll, conducted with Jerusalem residents, indicates that two thirds of those polled are against such events being staged. “Let them (the Gays) do what they want in Tel Aviv – but not here” one resident said.

Gay Pride Parade celebrates Tel Aviv’s 100th

More than 20,000 gays, lesbians, and curiosity seekers turned out for Tel Aviv’s 11th annual Gay Pride Parade on Friday, June 12. The event was staged by the city’s growing homosexual community, was coordinated as a part of the community’s Gay Pride Month and the city’s 100th birthday celebration. Gays and lesbians from all over Israel, as well as many visitors from abroad participated in the colorful event which includes groups like “Rugada”, a Russian group of (slightly) hairy gay men, Transgenders for Change, the Israeli Arab lesbian group “Asawat” (voices), “Bat Kol” ( Jewish religious lesbians) and one called Femmes.

Gay Pride in Tel Aviv 2009The celebrations began at 10 a.m. with a “pre parade” Gay and Lesbian Tourism Expo outside the Gan Meir GLBT Center in central Tel Aviv that included a number of tourism and other exhibits of interest to the gay and lesbian community, as well as music and other live entertainment. The parade itself kicked off at 1 p.m. on Borgrashov Street, and moved along to Ben Yehuda and Gordon streets before ending up at Gordon Beach where a TGIF beach party was held with music mixes by a professional DJ and plenty of snacks, beer and soft drinks until Shabbat began.

Besides the usual drag queens, muscle beach guys and other celebrants, this year’s parade included Israel’s version of Dykes on Bykes, in which lesbian participants on all kinds of motorized two wheelers (from cycles to mopeds) rode in unison together with rainbow colored Gay Pride flags attached to their handle bars.

Another unusual event this year was a mass “wedding” of five couples, something never done before in the Community (such weddings, although not legally recognized, are usually done in private due to adverse reactions from the non-gay community, especially the religious communities).

The festivities didn’t end on the Sabbath’s onset, however, as smaller parties continued into the night at various gay and lesbian pubs and other hang-outs.

For those who had to end their celebrating at the onset of Shabbat, as well as for all other interested participants, a Pink Elephant party will kick off at 6 p.m. Saturday evening at the Tel Aviv Port opposite the Montana Ice Cream emporium.

Tel Aviv’s homosexual and lesbian community has become one of the most active ones in the Western World; and certainly the most high profile one in the entire Middle East. Gay and Lesbian tourism to Israel has increased substantially in recent years, with visitors from many countries coming to the “non-stop city” to enjoy its many attractions for the Community. “We want people to feel fully free to come here and enjoy being with Israeli gays and lesbians, and even to get married if they choose to do so”, a Gay Pride official said.

Happy & Hot Gay Pride in Tel Aviv

Even the cops were in a good mood today. It was humid and hot but that didn’t slow down anyone. If you are in Tel Aviv around this time next year, it’s certainly worth the experience. Bring suntan lotion 🙂

Jerusalem’s Chords Bridge in Pink

Even though this expensive bridge was inaugurated in June on the same week as the gay pride parade in Jerusalem, the massive chords were emanating a different kind of pink last night.

The reason for such a drastic makeover, which could easily offend the local Jewish Orthodox community, is the commencement of this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The main purpose of this event — and similar events across to globe — it to remind us that 1 out of every 8 women will face breast cancer at one point or another in her life. So make sure to get checked on a regular basis. Early detection is the best course of prevention.

The lighting up of the bridge in pink was sponsored by the Israeli Cancer Association and by the Estée Lauder cosmetics company.

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