Celebrating gay pride, thousands of Israelis in tank tops and shorts danced to deafening music and waved rainbow-colored flags Friday, reported The Associated Press.
The agency said the annual street party has become the latest venue in the culture war between secular Israelis and devout Jews who consider homosexuality an abomination.
"We promise to support your struggle against the religious," legislator Tommy Lapid, leader of the secular rights party Shinui, was quoted as promising the cheering crowd.
In recent years, gays and lesbians in Israel have scored a string of successes in the courts, though not in parliament, where ultra-Orthodox religious parties have considerable clout, according to the AP.
Last month, the Supreme Court allowed a lesbian spouse to be registered as the second parent of her partner's biological son. In 1994, same sex unions were recognized for benefit purposes, said the agency, adding that the court rulings have coincided with growing public acceptance of gays.
Just a few years ago, public displays of gay pride were unheard of in Israel. By contrast, gays were hugging and kissing in Tel Aviv's central Rabin Square in 1998 to celebrate the transsexual singer Dana International's victory in the Eurovision Song Contest.
Over the last few years, the gay pride parade has drawn more and more people.
On Friday, Rabin Square was lined with Israeli flags and the rainbow banners of the gay pride movement. Techno music blared from loudspeakers mounted on trucks.
Some in the parade donned elaborate costumes, while others wore shorts and T-shirts. Families brought their children, and some heterosexual couples walked hand-in-hand, reported the AP.
There were no religious protests. Tel Aviv is an overwhelmingly secular city, and the parade was being held just before the onset of the Jewish Sabbath, during which observant Jews refrain from work and travel.
Apparently, politics had little to do with the gathering.
Some of those dancing in the parade said they paid little heed to politics. "Who cares what they do in the Knesset? Look at this celebration," said Anat Schumaker, one of the participants.
"We're here and they can't do anything to stop us," he told the agency –Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)