Tel Aviv Gay Pride - Hadar Cohen - 8.6.2012
Women kissing during Tel Aviv's annual Gay Pride Parade, June 8, 2012. Photo by Hadar Cohen
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Thousands of people participated in Tel Aviv's 14th Gay Pride Parade on Friday, including many tourists arrived in Israel to attend the annual gay pride week-long events.

The parade got underway in Gan Meir park, following an event which marked the conclusion of the week-long carnival in Israel's largest city. Among the speakers were top political and municipal officials, including U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro.

Opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) said that "on this joyful day there's a need to remember that we have only completed a part of the long way ahead of us." Yachimovich added that the call for gay rights and for social justice is identical: "it's the same fight. You will never march alone."

Meretz chair Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) accused politicians, rabbis and other public figures in discriminating against the gay community, asking them to follow Obama's lead: "next time there's a vote on a bill for civilian marriage, which included same-sex marriage, don't oppose it, endorse it."

Wearing a t-shirt depicting the gay pride flag, U.S. envoy Shapiro addressed the crowd in Hebrew, saying that "this is a day to celebrate and rejoice. Human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights." Also mentioning Obama, Shapiro said that the U.S. administration is showing dedication in removing the obstacles on the way to equality.

After marching the streets of Tel Aviv, the parade reached its peak in a huge beach party at Gordon Beach.

An American Airlines survey published in the Gay Cities website hailed Tel Aviv as the best gay tourism city in the world. Adir Steiner, coordinator of gay pride events for the Tel Aviv Municipality, said that the survey reflects the warm welcome gay tourists receive in Tel Aviv.

Read this article in Hebrew