Thousands Attend 10th Annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv

Right wing activists confront parade participants with signs reading 'Animals - you have nothing to be proud of.'

Thousands of people attended the tenth annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv Friday, to celebrate the gay community's struggle for equality and to christen the center for the gay community situated in the city's Meir park (Gan Meir).

"The center symbolizes an amazing turning point in the history of the gay community, and our activities will now have fertile ground from which to grow and flourish," Army Radio quoted one of the parade participants as saying.

The Tel Aviv municipality donated NIS 250,000 for the event, which was scheduled to commence at 12 P.M. at Gan Meir. The parade was then to head out toward Bograshov Street, turning onto Ben Yehuda Steet, then Ben Gurion Boulevard and finally ending at Gordon beach, where a host of musicians such as Ivri Lider, Maya Buskila and Keren Peles were set to perform followed by a party on into the night.

Unlike similar events in the more religious capital, which have sparked bitter right-wing protests and violent demonstrations, the Tel Aviv parade faced little resistance. "The parade here is different from the one in Jerusalem," Army Radio quoted another parade participant. "Here, we celebrate the freedom and rights that we have - it's a festival, a happening, it's a joy. In Jerusalem, it's simply a demonstration for human rights."

Several confrontations did take place however. Army Radio reported that a handful of extreme right-wing activists confronted the revelers holding signs reading "Animals - you have nothing to be proud of." Shas Party Chairman Eli Yishai also voiced his objection to the parade in a letter addressed to the prime minister and the police commissioner, saying the parade will include "acts of abomination" and that it should be stopped.

Army Radio also quoted Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On's response to Yishai's efforts, saying "their ignorance and dark beliefs take as back to the Middle Ages. It is intolerable that the religious and Haredis tell us what to believe in and how to live. Now they're trying to forbid the gay community from parading in the streets."