Tel Aviv Gay Parade, 2013

Gan Meir was packed with rainbows.

Walking from my home only a block away, the trickle of people didn't seem impressive, but that's because everybody was already there.
Gan Meir (Meir's Garden), a green park in the heart of Tel Aviv, has been the launching point of the Tel Aviv Pride Parade for the past few years, and I landed straight into the pre-party and speeches. 

Israel's political leaders lined up for a chance to talk to the colorful crowd that was sweating in the humid spring morning. Sweating, and dancing, and shouting, and generally refusing to hide in the closet anymore.
I'm straight. But I'm different too, in my own way, and so I've decided to walk in the parade this year, rather than watch it from the sides.

Tel Aviv has always been secular and free. In the last decade or so, it has also become one of the friendliest places on Earth for homosexuals and anyone who feels "different" in someway.
You can sit on the beach and just be yourself.

The 2013 parade was HUGE

Tens of thousands of people started out from Gan Meir, danced down the major streets of the city, and gathered again in a huge beach party.

I let the human river carry me.
The asphalt burned through my shoes, and I relished the cool rain – water hosed down on the paraders from the balconies along Bograshov street. 
The people bunches in the balconies looked comic to me, the balconies too small to hold them somehow. Some were totally a part of the party. Some were looking on as avid anthropologists, trying to understand this mania roaring below them.

Inside this mania it actually wasn't crazy at all - the people around me looked completely sane. 

Defiantly normal. 

In Your Face. 

Ecstatic. 

Daring you to say something about their dress. 

Families with children. So what if both parents are of the same sex? They still have to figure out who drives the kids to school on Sunday.

Elderly couples – straight couples – came to march with their children or grand children. They came to show their support. 

A mother hugged her daughter and they both cried. It's so hard to be different. 
It's so empowering to be accepted, just as you are.


My phone-camera overheated at the beach

I went to cool off with a nice beer at the back side of the party, and watched the shameless bodies. 
No Photoshop. None of that self-hatred. "This is what I am", they seemed to say, "this is my body, and that's that!" It made me happier than anything else I've seen – people who are comfortable inside their own skin. Lots and lots of naked skin - it was beautiful.

It reminded me of how Mysh described his experience at the Spencer Tunic shooting session at the Dead Sea. Naked, Mysh said, all humans look amazingly similar. A month before he made a wall size queer haiku comic at the entrance to the Tel Aviv city hall. The last panel looked just like the gay parade.

I Danced

I had people come up to me with offers you never hear in broad daylight. I had to think on the fine line between personal freedom and anarchy: the gay parade would not exist if personal choice was really free.

How does society draw the lines of what is acceptable, safe, decent?

Personally, I feel much safer walking down the street seeing a gay couple holding hands, than seeing a woman covered in a burka from head to toe. Gay men are no more dangerous than straight men. Women who are not allowed to show their face in public are dangerous – they are a sign of fanaticism. 

I'd rather deal with the dilemmas of expanding the human experience, not with constricting it.

The pride-parade is front page news

When I've had enough, I climbed the steps up to Kikar Atarim to start back. The alien-like architecture made an excellent vantage point from which to view the beach party, and a dozen photographers fought over a good place for a shot. 
This outright defiance of normal conventions is a challenge on society, and society is measured by its reaction to it. 

Tel Aviv is a very tolerating place. The city welcomes the parade with open arms, hanging rainbow flags and closing down major streets for it.

In the Jerusalem, only 40 minutes away, the parade is liable to get stoned. 

In Moscow it's banned till the next Century.

In Iran, homosexual relationship is punishable by Death.

I made my way home through the same streets we marched in, just in time to see the city workers clean up after us. Someone had enough sense to figure out that it's worth keeping the streets closed for a little longer, and clean them all quickly while they're empty. Tel Aviv's entire sanitation department zoomed at high speed, washing and scrubbing and making me wish they'd do this every day.

On the beach, the party was still going strong with Bar Rafaeli and famous DJs.

The rest of Tel Aviv relaxed into the lazy Friday afternoon, and I was happy to be living in a city strong enough to expand the horizons of personal freedom.





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