Jerusalem, June 3 – Israel’s unique position in the Middle East as a center of equality for all comes under the spotlight this week as Gay Pride festivities kick off in Tel Aviv.
Voted the world’s best gay travel destination, Tel Aviv is hosting thousands of tourists with events co-sponsored and supported by Tel Aviv city hall. Tel Aviv and Toronto are the only two cities in the world that budget for Gay Pride week, a city official said, with other cities paying only for security.
“Tel Aviv lives up to its reputation as the gay capital of the Middle East. (Even the crosswalks are painted in rainbow stripes,)” CNN wrote in its listing of the best picks around the world for celebrating Pride.
“By far the most international city in Israel, Tel Aviv is also home to a large gay community, a kind of San Francisco in the Middle East. Thanks to its university and museums, it is also the greenhouse for Israel’s growing art, film and music scenes,” Lonely Planet wrote after naming Tel Aviv one of the world’s “top ten cities in 2011.”
Tel Aviv is home to nearly 370,000 Jews and 33,000 Arabs and is well known for its tolerant lifestyle, a ‘melting pot’ of race, creed, religion, gender and sexual orientation.
The week-long festivities culminate in the annual Gay Pride parade on June 8, and will be followed by the 7thInternational LGBT Film Festival that this year is screening “queer cinema” from Turkey and Indonesia as well as masters film making classes.