Jaded by Pride Fests? Find young revelry, maybe marriage, in Tel Aviv

Part of a collection of my travel stories and other personal essays.

By Ron Reason 

Living for 14 years in the middle of Chicago’s “Boystown” neighborhood, one can be forgiven for becoming jaded, even annoyed, by it’s annual Pride Parade. Hundreds of thousands descend late each June on a too-small area, jamming a parade route politically designed to feed crowds into local businesses. Such is the price of success: After several decades of growth, Pride has gone mainstream.

Not the case for Tel Aviv Pride, which I stumbled on while attending a media conference. In only its 10th year when I visited, this young Pride fest literally danced through ancient streets in jubilant baby steps.

A parade for the masses

In sharp contrast to the police barricades that now line the route for Chicago Pride, Tel Aviv boasted a casual, open affair. Have a liking for a particular float? They may let you hop on board. Dancers or musicians catch your fancy? They’ll likely let you tag along.

As the end of the parade passes each viewer, they are invited to join in, extending the parade as it winds its way through the streets.

Surf, sand, and house music 

The parade’s destination: A massive afternoon oceanside festival, with food vendors, live music, DJ tents, and dancing, on the sand and in the surf. Moreso than other Pride festivals I’ve attended worldwide, this event seemed like it may be an almost indiscernible mix of straight and gay revelers. Love a good beach party? This is the place to be.

Visibility and union

Capping off the day: A celebration of love, equality, and visibility, in the form of a mass gay wedding on the beach as the sun set over the Mediterranean. A crush of photographers sealed off just about every decent vantage point in front of the stage where film director and human rights advocate Gal Uchovsky was set to wed five couples:

But a perch I found behind the stage yielded scenes of tenderness, family, and maybe a few nerves, as the brides, and grooms, readied themselves, poses for photos for family members, and prepared for the big event.

Via social media, the candid shots ended up on the radar of the staff of Time Out Tel Aviv, who contacted me that night and requested permission to republish them in that week’s edition. The resulting layout, my first in Hebrew:

The weekend celebrations were a relief from an otherwise packed business trip: a day in Jerusalem for lectures on human rights, plus other work with journalists from around the region. In Tel Aviv, our comfortable retreat was the unique, affordable boutique Artplus Hotel, where every hallway and elevator seemed to carry a splash of creativity:

(Note: All travel is at my own expense, or paid by client publications for whom I am doing unrelated work. I have never received comps of lodging, meals, transportation, or other benefits in exchange for writing, photography, or social media promotions.) 

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