Tel Aviv Pride Parade returns after last year’s COVID cancellation

Dozens of rainbow and Israeli flags billowed in the hot breeze on Friday as tens of thousands of people came to revel and celebrate as Tel Aviv’s gay Pride parade kicked off.

The parade, a vibrant display of acceptance, was one of the largest public events in Israel since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The annual celebration is considered the biggest LGBTQ+ event in the conservative Middle East and is held in the country’s rare hub of gay culture.

Although there were concerns over a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, linked to the U.S. bred Delta variant, the seaside gathering held on the coastal promenade drew an estimated 100,000 people, according to local news reports.

The country’s rapid vaccination drive allowed Pride to return after being cancelled last year due to concerns aboutspreading the virus.

Israeli authorities, which fully reopened the country this spring, are once again requiring people to wear masks in indoor public places, and are advising masks at large outdoor events. Less than half of attendees wore face coverings.

Pride attendees socialize after the parade along the beach on Friday, June 25, 2021, in Tel Aviv, Israel. The city is a rare center of gay culture in the conservative Middle East.

(Jacob Moscovitch / Los Angeles Times)

Or Habusha poses for a portrait.

Or Habusha stands for a portrait during the Pride parade on Friday, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Habusha is a model and photographer.

(Jacob Moscovitch / Los Angeles Times)

Dayla Wondemagen, right, and Shoval Tal, left, dance to music and pose for photos along the beach.

Dayla Wondemagen, right, and Shoval Tal, left, dance to music and pose for photos along the beach in Tel Aviv, Israel.

(Jacob Moscovitch / Los Angeles Times)

Pride parade attendee Daniella Alpert paints makeup on her face.

Tel Aviv Pride parade attendee Daniella Alpert paints makeup on her face. Alpert borrowed the makeup from a friend for the event.

(Jacob Moscovitch / Los Angeles Times)

A woman attending the Pride parade pauses to watch people dance.

A woman attending the Pride parade along the western coast pauses to watch people dance near a bar in Tel Aviv, Israel.

(Jacob Moscovitch / Los Angeles Times)

A Pride-themed Israeli flag is raised above the crowd of parade attendees .

A Pride-themed Israeli flag is raised above the crowd of parade attendees in Tel Aviv, Israel.

(Jacob Moscovitch / Los Angeles Times)

Chani Choina, 23, poses for a portrait after a Pride parade on Friday, June 25, 2021, in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Chani Choina, 23, poses for a portrait after a Pride parade on Friday in Tel Aviv, Israel. Choina, who previously lived in New York, now lives in Israel.

(Jacob Moscovitch / Los Angeles Times)

A young person stands for a portrait during a Pride parade in Tel Aviv, Israel.

“Pride means that I am finally safe,” said Noam Tzirun,17. “I am more myself.” Tzirun, who is from a nearby city called Ramat Hasharon, is pansexual.

(Jacob Moscovitch / Los Angeles Times)

Lexi Biku dances with friends during a Pride parade in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Lexi Biku, center, dances with friends during a Pride parade in Tel Aviv, Israel. While some attendees of the event walked in the parade, others like Biku danced in one location.

(Jacob Moscovitch / Los Angeles Times)