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Tens of thousands mark Gay Pride in Tel Aviv

AFP  |  Tel Aviv 

Tens of thousands of people gathered along the beach in the Israeli commercial capital today for the largest event in the

Music, glittery costumes and balloons invaded the city, which for more than 20 years has built an image of an oasis of tolerance for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the region.

Cafes, shops and lamp posts were decked with rainbow flags, with tens of thousands of tourists visiting specifically for the event. Organisers said around 2,50,000 people attended today's event.

"With all these flags, I already feel at home," said Jimmy Chan, 39, who arrived from two days ago. "Seeing this parade in such a religious country makes you feel more connected as a community." Perched on high heels and wearing a black skirt which is attached with a rainbow flag, the one who calls himself Aldifrost, 30, sketches a few dance steps, shaking his long wavy and blue-coloured hair.

"is the big city of gays!" he exclaimed, saying he was attending for the 10th year. "I come here to party and display my drag-queen show." The Israeli Netta Barzilai, who won the Eurovision song contest in May, was expected to perform in the afternoon. While not gay, she has a large following in the community.

In the Middle East, has the most rights for the community, including within the military. But for Neel Lex Lumi, 26 and from the northern Israeli city of Haifa, pride marches are an opportunity to demand even more.

"I would like civil marriage to be recognised in Israel," he said. Only religious marriages, through the Jewish rabbinate or other religious institutions, are possible in

But civil marriages, between heterosexual or homosexual couples, are recognised when they have been entered into abroad. A little further in the procession, a group brandished a black and pink banner. At the sound of percussion, they shouted "stop the occupation!" in reference to Israel's continued occupation of the Palestinian territories.

"We have a problem in Israel, the government does not give us rights, but we are used to promote its image abroad," said one of the organisers, Ori Katz. Part of the community accuses of "pinkwashing," meaning highlighting its relatively pro-gay stance compared to its neighbours to downplay alleged rights abuses.

The Israeli foreign ministry highlights Tel Aviv's status as one of the world's most gay-friendly cities in its promotional material. A 2015 parade in conservative ended in tragedy when an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man got among the marchers, stabbing a 16-year-old girl to death and wounding five others.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, June 08 2018. 18:45 IST