Thousands Take Part in Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade

Supporting gay community is not political issue but a matter of human respect and decency, opposition leader Tzipi Livni tells crowd.

Thousands took part in Tel Aviv's gay pride parade Friday, including several politicians, among them opposition leader and Kadima chairperson Tzipi Livni.

Livni addressed crowds at the parade's opening at Gan Meir park on Tchernichovsky Street, where she said that Israel could "not afford the fear that turns into hatred of the other."

"These days, there is a sense that Israel has become a sealed pressure cooker, that would be easy to be swept away by internal hate toward Arabs and gays," Livni said.

"I have heard people express political fears – as if sexual identity were a political identity, as if new immigrants, religious communities, or any other human society, did not have gays or lesbians aomng them," Livni said.

Livni added: "Because the tendencies of the body and heart are not political, the protection of the [gay] community is not within the realm of any one political group. It is a matter of human beings respecting each others."

Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich, who also addressed the festive crowd, said there was still much to be done in the battle against ignorance and discrimination, and for equal rights for the gay community.

It was not just some members of the gay community who were still "in the closet", Yachimovich said - many politicians who voice support of gay rights in private, had refused to "come out" and show their support.

"The time has come for the friends of the community to come out of the closet to ensure that this fight, a political one, will succeed," she said.

For the first time since the city's inaugural gay pride event in 1998, two separate parades marched at the same time, with an alternative 'radical' march running parallel to the traditional community one, organized by the 'Marching toward Social Change' coalition.