Israel media reports that over 180,000 celebrated at Tel Aviv Pride making it the Middle East’s largest GLBT event.

An estimated 180,000 people marched through Tel Aviv’s streets Friday, in the city’s 17th annual Gay Pride Parade, Israel’s largest and oldest gay pride event.

The theme of this year’s parade, which was the city’s biggest ever, was “Tel Aviv loves all genders.”


The Associated Press reports that large sections of Tel Aviv were shut for traffic and loud music blasted along the parade’s route. Streets were packed thick with people waving rainbow flags and dancing. 

Among the visitors was Conchita Wurst, the bearded Austrian cross-dresser who won last year’s Eurovision song contest.

Israel has emerged as one of the world’s most GLBT friendly travel destinations in recent years, something that has often been highlighted by the country’s politicians, with even the country’s right wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledging Israel’s GLBT community this week.

Netanyahu made the rare acknowledgment of the GLBT community’s struggles for equality in a Facebook post this week saying “The struggle for every person to be recognized as equal before the law is a long struggle, and there is still a long way to go,” noting however that he was proud Israel is “among the most open countries in the world” in regards to GLBT rights.

Israel stands out in sharp contrast to the rest of the Middle East where gay culture is not tolerated and gays are persecuted and even killed.

Across the rest of the Middle East, gay and lesbian relationships are mostly taboo, with same-sex relations punishable by death in Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.

 Article | Levi Joule.