Rainbow Report / Lesbians Rising: The Quest to Reclaim Tel Aviv Pride

Brian Schaefer
Brian Schaefer
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Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Brian Schaefer
Brian Schaefer

One of the things that makes the Tel Aviv Pride Parade so unique is that, unlike other Pride Parades where marchers wave to observers lining the route, in this city, the line between spectator and participant is blurred. Most floats have a resident DJ and the (mostly drunk) crowd kind of swarms around them, bouncing along, until moving on to the next one. It’s all very sweaty and sexy – and predominantly male.

The bulging crowds of men surrounding the floats is perhaps symbolic of their outsized presence in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community; not just in Tel Aviv but all over the world. The boys just wanna have fun but, in the process, they can be rather suffocating.

Of the nine people that sit on the municipality’s Pride committee, Anat Nir is the only woman. “We are not equal,” says Nir, an independent producer and tireless activist on behalf of the lesbian community. Women, she says, don’t have equal representation in society in general and “it doesn’t change in the gay community.”

In response to complaints about the oppressive heat and stifling testosterone of the parade, this year, Nir and other lesbian organizers are setting up a Women’s Point along the route for women to gather in the shade and enjoy the festivities without the chaos.

Located at Bograshav 18, the spot will be open from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. with a patio bar, pre-sale tix for Pride’s main lesbian party and continuous DJ sets. It’s rest stop-meets-street party.

Another unique aspect of Tel Aviv Pride is the government-sponsored massive party on Gordon Beach that follows the parade, featuring a large, covered dance floor, temporary alcohol tents planted in the sand, and piles of discarded clothes whose owners have waded out into the sea.

For the past four years, Nir produced the mainstage of the party but passed on the opportunity to do so again, turning her attention to more women-focused events. Despite efforts to give women a larger presence on the beach, she says that the municipality – which maintains tight control over official Pride events and the Pride budget – placed too many constraints. She laments the tiny slice of time allocated to her gender on stage.

“We get half an hour out of four hours,” she says. The rest of the time? Male DJs and drag queens. Still, she plans to make the most of those 30 minutes, which begin at 4:45 P.M. with DJ Tami Bibring and Adi Ulmansky, a young, up-and-coming singer-songwriter. The slot, she says, “is very important for women’s visibility.”

The celebration continues on Satruday night with the official Women's Pride party at the Comfort 13 Club in south Tel Aviv, co-sponsored with L Beach, the largest international festival for women in the world. Among those making an appearance are DJ Ipek from Berlin and VJ Karajan, a video artist from Istanbul.

Also slated to appear is Ninet Tayeb, one of Israel’s most popular singers, who created a video of support for the lesbian community, emphasizing the importance of equality. It’s a gesture as significant as Omer Adam’s, the straight, mainstream Mizrahi singer who made the official Tel Aviv Pride song.

The theme of this year’s Comfort 13 party is “Queens,” which Nir calls a self-empowering message celebrating the community’s accomplishments. Of course, it’s probably also a tongue-in-cheek reclaiming of a term now largely appropriated by gay men. But for Nir and her fellow activists, those men have been in the spotlight for too long.

“Much has changed in women’s issues and LGBT issues,” says Nir. “We’ve made such a difference. It’s hard to see on a daily basis but its there. We chose to give this empowering message to say not just that we can do it but that we did it.”

Lesbians taking part in the annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

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