Marni Mandell

Pride in Tel Aviv

It is Monday night, and I am sitting across from Kikar Rabin looking at the gigantic sign they’ve put up for Gay Pride week in the square.

For a while it seems like there isn’t much to say about it. All of us who live in Tel Aviv are fully aware that this is a “gay” town. It is by far one of the gayest towns I’ve had the pleasure of spending time in. As a straight girl with a very accepting family, I was dragged to Key West, San Francisco, the West Village of NYC, and Ibiza – all before the age of 16.

Tel Aviv is a place where couples, gay or straight, are not ashamed of displays of public affection. It is a place where “in-the-closet” men and women from the ultra-religious and Arab sectors of society secretly come to find themselves, and maybe someone else. It is a city that was truly dumbstruck when its local LGBT center was attacked a couple of years ago. No one could understand how that would even HAPPEN in Tel Aviv.

So why did this billboard even strike me at all? Because lately, it is one of the few times where I have experienced pride relating to Tel Aviv.

The billboard displays two gay men, presumably a couple, each playing with a child. I was looking at a FAMILY. Sitting across from me on the billboard was not a sign of only gay pride. It was a radical and disruptive sign that said that gay pride was really pride in something every single person in Israel values; family. By extension, isn’t this the most common denominator in the world?

On Friday, Tel Aviv was taken over by the gay pride parade, and it always proves to be the parade of the year, the most colorful, the most “out”. This year, friends of mine marched as part of the gay Orthodox community with the specific intention of giving kids who might be watching from religious communities the opportunity to see that there is a place for them in this colorful, eclectic crowd.

In a year when bullying has caught worldwide attention, and anti-bullying campaigns are going viral, there are strong men and women out there saying, “You have a place, and we are here for you.” This message is loud and clear, and we have an obligation to find a way for this message to permeate our society on a host of issues.

This parade represents so much more than just one issue, and it is, by far, my favorite parade or celebration in this city.

Gay pride is really a pride we can all feel. For one day, our city becomes the ultimate example of acceptance, and not just tolerance.

About the Author
Marni Mandell CEO & Co-Founder of CareHood, public speaking coach and mentor to startups and speaker herself. She made aliyah in 2010, and has spent 20 years working in the Jewish community and hi-tech.