Gays - Not just in Tel Aviv
By Ahiya Raved
Living up to Haifa’s slumbering-city reputation, the first ever gay pride parade held in the city was not as colorful or as loud as its Tel Aviv counterpart.
Some 300 men and women took part in Thursday’s parade. Pride flags in hand, participants gathered in the city’s Yafe Nof Street and marched down towards the Carmel’s center.
Dozens of eyes were on the parade, belonging both to curious bystanders and to police forces, who secured the event with mass troops.
Prior to the parade’s beginning, three haredim were arrested for attempting to provoke the gatherers.
"I think it’s very important to hold such a parade in Haifa, so people would understand that gay men and women live outside of Tel Aviv as well," Hanna, one of the participants, told Ynet.
"Many people don’t understand why we have to march. They think ’well, we don’t go around shouting we’re straight, do we?’.
Marching for basic rights
"We march because we’re still fighting for the basic rights they take for granted, like getting married and having a child together.
"The legal system in Israel is relatively progressive," she added, "so we’re granted some rights. But nothing can be taken for granted."
"Everything was done at the last minute," said Uri Shmilovitz, one of the parade’s organizers. "We had no money for advertising...considering most people heard about the parade by word of mouth, we’ve had a fairly good turnout."
"We’re glad we could have this parade in Haifa - Israel’s third largest city," he added.
Although police had no specific indication the parade might be disrupted, Brigadier General Ronny Atiya, commander of the police costal district, decided not to take any chances, and had 200 police officers secure the event.
Atiya also had horses and crowd-control devices standing by, in case things got out of hand.
The parade ended at Carmel’s Ha’em garden, where participants released dozens of balloons to the sky, calling for a bigger gathering next year and for a mass turnout at the Jerusalem pride parade.