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Pride Month 2022 is a stark reminder of the conflicting realities that the Israeli LGBTQ+ community faces.
Coastal Tel Aviv underscores flourishing LGBTQ+ tolerance. It's not uncommon for a gay couple to kiss on a street bench, posters for the next drag show pasted on café windows, or rainbow flags to be displayed at venues across the city all year round. LGBTQ+ people are not afraid to be themselves and appear in public with their partner.
But about 40 miles to the east, in Jerusalem, the atmosphere is just the opposite. As one of the most religious and conservative cities in the world, members of Jerusalem's LGBTQ+ community do not experience the same level of tolerance and are only visible in the city during pride. It is a traditional city where it is not customary to openly express one's sexuality.
Gay rights in Israel have advanced dramatically since the establishment of the Jewish State in 1948, when homosexuality was outlawed. After the Israeli Gay Revolution of 1988 year, which led to the legalization of homosexuality, various forms of discrimination were prohibited.
Today, the rights of the Israeli LGBTQ+ community — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other genders — are considered the most developed in the Middle East, and Tel Aviv is the epicenter of tolerance.
But the persisting, widespread societal phobia of LGBTQ+ people in other parts of Israel, especially the capital, draws a clear line between acceptance and its lack.
Jerusalem Pride has a history of lethal violence. Despite this, 7,000 marchers took to the streets of the capital to kick off Israel's Pride Month, knowing that the parade is an important part of the LGBTQ+ movement towards recognition.
In Tel Aviv, where, according to official figures, , with about a quarter of the population identifying as LGBTQ+, the pride parade appears to have evolved from a political demonstration to a social event and mass party. This year's march attracted more than 170,000 participants.
While some consider Tel Aviv to be the “gay capital of the Middle East”, members of the Israeli LGBTQ+ community insist progress is yet to come .
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