My friend Abby's husband, Bob, coined the expression "Things just got....weird!" during his summer 2010 bachelor party. It was an expression that just stuck. And, well, things did get just a little bit weird yesterday, to put it lightly. Yesterday started out on what seemed to be a normal day. My husband and I had some errands to run in the Herzliya area so we opted to lunch at the Herzliya Marina, which I love. Instead of being too cold to be outside (like our last visit there), it was so horrendously hot and humid (hovering around 100 F) that the crowds flocked indoors to enjoy the fancy mall with its loungy couches, scenic harbor views and refreshingly crisp and cool air conditioning.
Once we arrived into the heart of Tel Aviv, however, I could quickly tell that I hadn't received the memo that yesterday was no ordinary day. This is why you must always have a camera on you at all times! And thank goodness I had one with me. While my husband was having a business meeting indoors, I decided to head over to the beach. Though I eventually made it there, this is what I found along the way:
|Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the 14th Annual Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade!!|
Welcome to Tel Aviv's 14th Annual Gay Pride Parade! This is by far the most festive gay pride parade I've ever laid eyes on in my lifetime. It is a well known fact that Tel Aviv has become one of the main gay metropolises of the world. Some even say that in certain aspects, namely the craziness and loudness, Tel Aviv is even a competitor to Berlin or New York. The only thing I can knowingly compare it to is crazy spring breaks in Mexico or Halloween / ISVT events at UC Santa Barbara.
This is the 14th year that the parade has been taking place. The parade is the penultimate event in the celebration of Gay Pride Week here in Israel. The tradition began in 1998 with just a couple of hundred partiers, and has grown rapidly into an event with over 100,000 participants that seems to get wetter and wilder every year. Reports have said that nearly 5,000 people flew into Tel Aviv just to attend the celebration from around the world.
|Pink Float at Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade 2011|
The sheer number of people that pack themselves onto the streets makes it nearly impossible to move. Simultaneously, throngs of drunken celebrants hound the streets wearing almost nothing while music blasts from the floats that slowly attempt to make their way through the crowded avenues. Onlookers howl with fascination and approval as prideful costumed dancers cause a raucous on the festive platforms.
|Crowded streets at Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade 2011|
|Crazy float at 14th annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, Israel|
With temperatures hovering around 100 F, the people down in the streets respond with joyful glee when parade watchers splash down buckets of cold water from their apartment balconies above.
The parade usually starts from Gan Meir, where a popular gay community center is situated. The gathering at the center includes lots of loud music, some activity booths and even live performances by local gay music groups. The main event - the actual parade - is usually kicked off from there by the city mayor. Yes, the city mayor! In no other place on Earth does the gay community receive such phenomenal local support from the public and from government officials. Multiple important political figures made speeches in support of gay rights at the start of the event. With speeches out of the way, the infamous parade then heads towards Bugrashov Street, turning next onto popular Ben Yehuda Street, then making its way to Ben Gurion Boulevard and finally straight down to Gordon Beach, where the insanity takes over (as if it hadn't already....).
|Making my way through the streets at Tel Aviv's Gay Pride Parade 2011|
Mark your calendars, this is an event not to be missed! The next two dates have already been penciled in: June 8, 2012 and June 7, 2013. It was quite the pleasant surprise to see such a warm embrace of this community; it made me proud to be an Israeli today.
|Preview of the Beach Scene - to come in the next post!|
See, I told you that yesterday was no ordinary day. It's hard to believe that just 45 minutes away in holy Jerusalem, there is the extreme opposite type of behavior going on:
This sure is one diverse country! It's incredible that such a small country shares its borders with such a wealth of different types of people....with each group religiously (no pun intended) attempting to advocate their selves and their worldview.