Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

A Tale of Two Prides: Tel Aviv vs. Jerusalem

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

A Tale of Two Prides: Tel Aviv vs. Jerusalem

Article excerpt

One is a party, the other a protest. One is a citywide celebration; the other needs you

I HAD BEEN LIVING in Tel Aviv for almost a year before I attended my first Pride and discovered that the spirited, carefree city I thought I knew had actually been withholding a bit of its juice. Suddenly the already raucous nightlife ticked up another few notches and the potent sexual swagger went into overdrive. Because Tel Aviv is a relatively small city, Pride consumed it, sweeping me through drunken streets to the shores of the Mediterranean, where DJs made the sand shake.

At the time, I was about to begin a two-year master's program and was still figuring out my relationship with Israel. Tel Aviv Pride was like a great big sweaty hug--it promised safety and excitement and the reassurance that all parts of me were welcome here: the spiritual as well as the sexual.

Having come out, and come of age, in the 2000s in California, after the urgency of AIDS but long before marriage equality, I found that Pride always felt comfortable like this--a celebration with few serious stakes but plenty of Speedo-clad dancers riding waves of sound atop tinseled floats. I had never known Pride any other way--until I ventured to Jerusalem the following year.

In the holy city, we gathered in Independence Park where, at night, closeted married men still meet in the shadows. The sloping lawn was enclosed and secured and a bit claustrophobic. A colorful balloon arch bobbed over us in a twisted rainbow. I noticed that people were dressed more modestly, by Pride standards, and a generous number sported kippot, the traditional skullcaps of observant Jews. And many attendees were carrying signs. This was not a parade, it was a march.

Not that it wasn't spirited--as in every Pride, there were towering drag queens and plenty of inebriated joy. But the air also carried a whiff of paranoia. And for good reason: The short route ahead was lined with security guards and demonstrators awaiting with, at best, biblical jeers and, at worst ... who knew? (They have been known to toss dirty diapers.)

The possibility of violence also hovered. The fact that Jerusalem Pride occurs in late July or early August, rather than in June as with most other cities, is a reflection of this--it commemorates an August 1, 2009, shooting at a gay youth center in Tel Aviv. …

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