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Want to explore Israel with me? Be sure to nab one of the last few spots to our Wander Women Israel: A Yoga, Diving, + Adventure Retreat  for May 27-June 3, 2021 or High Flying Israel: An Aerial Arts + Yoga Retreat for June 5-10, 2021.

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How proud I was to finally make it to an epic Pride celebration — and in one of my favorite cities, no less! And brace yourself, because this is going to be a big call, but while I don’t have much to compare it to, it’s kind of hard to me to imagine there’s a better Pride celebration in the world.

Israel Pride Parade

Israel Pride Parade

Israel Pride Parade

Experiencing Pride in Tel Aviv shot to the top of my bucket list after my 2018 trip, when I fully immersed in Midburn and heard so much buzz that Pride was the next wild party. I was reluctant to leave Israel at all, and then saw a viral video that made my jaw drop. 

Next year, I’m there, I vowed.

And I was.

Pride celebrations start long before the parade, and rage on after. My own Pride events kicked off when my friend Or invited me to an Elton John tribute cabaret at the Inta Hotel, an enthusiastically gay-friendly boutique hotel in Jaffa. 

I went expecting a small karaoke-style event and was blown away by the incredible, passionate production that unfolded in front of me! I also really enjoyed the conversations I had this night that taught me a lot about how Pride is viewed by much of the gay community in Israel: they are grateful for the ability to celebrate freely, but rightfully resentful that gay couples cannot get married in Israel (the government does recognize unions performed elsewhere), among other issues, and that the same government who enforces these discriminatory laws also heavily promote the county’s Pride celebrations to drive tourism dollars. The Tourism Ministry estimates that 25,000 to 30,000 people come from abroad to participate in Israel’s Pride events, pushing $45 million into the local economy. 

Bottom line? If you travel to Israel for Pride, make an effort to support gay-owned businesses, educate yourself on the local issues, consider donating to advocacy groups, and be a vocal advocate for the rights of all. And try to attend more than just the parade, which is just one of nearly fifty Pride-related events across Tel Aviv that week, including a National Conference on LGBTQ issues as well as art exhibitions, lectures, and yes, epic parties.

Elton John Pride Tribute at Inta Hotel in Tel Aviv
Elton John Pride Tribute at Inta Hotel in Tel Aviv
Elton John Pride Tribute at Inta Hotel in Tel Aviv

The epicenter of the Pride celebrations across the country is undoubtedly Tel Aviv’s iconic Pride Parade. The event draws a quarter of a million people, making it the largest in the Middle East and one of the ten largest Pride festivities in the world!

Right up until the morning of the parade, I’d been kind of non-committal about how and where I was going to celebrate. But when my friend Jannah texted me a photo of her epic outfit that morning and the address of a friend’s apartment she was setting off from, I knew what I had to do.

I threw my hair in some party buns and hit the streets. And what colorful streets they were. 

Tel Aviv Pride Parade

Tel Aviv Pride

After convening with a whole crew, we set off to merge with the masses. The parade route went down Bograshov Street before hitting the seaside promenade. I thought at first it was a waste to ever leave the beach but I’m so glad I started the parade where I did. 

First of all, I would have never found Jannah in that crushing throng of people (despite the fact that she is, apparently, one of three redheads in all of Tel Aviv.) Second, I loved that first urban part of the parade — young girls dancing on rooftops in bikinis, old guys cooling down the crowds with water guns from their balconies, and everyone running into their friends on the streets. In Israel, an interconnected country the size of New Jersey, everyone basically knows everyone and it’s impossible to leave the house without running into someone you know.

Tel Aviv Pride Parade

Tel Aviv

Well, this New Yorker must have absorbed some Israel magic, because I could hardly believe my eyes when I looked up and saw my friend Adam. From New York. In the streets of Tel Aviv. Among a quarter of a million people, I’d literally run into a friend I had no idea was there. What!

I did the only thing that seemed prudent: I leapt directly into his arms. 

Tel Aviv Pride Parade

Tel Aviv Pride Parade

One of my favorite memories from the parade was a big guy running past us with a big flag, shouting in Hebrew and pushing people out of the way. My new friend Rotem laughed and turned to me, translating his cries: “out of my way, straight people!”

Pride Parade in Tel Aviv

As much fun as we had in the city streets, I was thrilled when we reached the sea and the parade took a sharp turn down the beach! The parade floats were epic and it felt so good to dip in the sea in the midst of a Middle Eastern summer day. We quickly decamped to my balcony at Beachfront Hostel, truly the place to stay if you’re in the city for Pride. 

Pride Parade in Tel Aviv

Israel Pride Parade
Israel Pride Parade

Pride Parade in Tel Aviv

Pride Parade in Tel Aviv

Israel Pride Parade in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv, Israel Pride Parade
Tel Aviv, Israel Pride Paradee

Israel Pride Parade in Tel Aviv

My room was suddenly worth about a billion times what we’d paid for it. While we partied on my balcony with front row seats to the parade, we had a private bathroom, outlets to charge our phones, and a mini-fridge to cool our free-flowing drinks in. We’d stopped at the minimart I’d been frequenting since my arrival in Tel Aviv, and despite the enormous lines, I’d enquired about the hostel discount I normally got there, prompting Adam to laugh at my audacity.

“It’s Pride, anything to make you happy!,” sang the boisterous owner. “Everyone is happy today,” he continued, tossing us our discounted drinks.

Israel Pride Parade in Tel Aviv

As the parade disbanded and the masses moved down to the after party at Charles Clore Park, we were craving something a little more intimate, and stuck to the rooftop dance party atop the hostel.

Tel Aviv Pride Parade

Tel Aviv Pride Parade

Eventually, Adam and I were craving a little peek at the official party, and made a tipsy trip down to the park. 

Tel Aviv Pride Parade

Tel Aviv Pride Parade

While I’m glad we went, our hostel party was better, and we returned to a fantastic post-parade cuddle puddle that soon morphed into a spontaneous swim in the sea.

Tel Aviv Pride Parade

After, we all retreated to our various beds for the kind of deeply satisfying nap you can only enjoy after an epic day of day drinking in the sun. And, in absolutely perfect Tel Aviv style, when we all woke up from our naps, Jannah, Nim and I met back up for a civilized vegan dinner before retreating back to bed again. 

It was truly unforgettable — and it wasn’t over yet.

Tel Aviv, Israel Pride Parade
Tel Aviv, Israel Pride Parade

The next day, I was supposed to head to Eilat to do a little more retreat research before heading across the border into Egypt. But I wasn’t ready to go.

Luckily, an enticing invitation landed in my lap — head to the absolutely wild Offer Nissim show with 60,000 beautiful raving people in Yarkon Park! Offer Nissim is an Israeli DJ who just so happens to be the godfather of Israeli dance music. And I would soon understand why.

Offer Nissim Live Pride Concert 2019

Getting there was an adventure all its own. I’d decided to go kind of last minute, and the group I was joining was already there. No problem, I texted them, I’ll grab a cab. Yikes — did not realize how hard that was going to be! Uber and Gett, Israel’s own version, both reported that there were no available cars; the first time I’d ever seen that warning in the city. 

So, not deterred, I headed to an ATM to get some cash and try to hail a a ride the old fashioned way. As I was doing so, I overhead three guys stressing over not being able to get a car, either. “Are you all trying to get to Yarkon?,” I asked, and they confirmed. We decided to join forces and after a big of antics all squeezed in to a car heading to the party of the week. 

Offer Nissim Live Pride Concert 2019

One of the guys whipped out a phone, snapped a selfie of us, and asked my Instagram handle. “Don’t mind if you get several thousand follow requests,” he said with a wink, and I did a double take. “Wait,” I said. “Are you an INSTAGRAM INFLUENCER?!”

Endless giggles and hilarity ensued. Upon arrival, the guys took one look at the crowd and advised me to ditch the new friends I was meant to meet and hang with them instead. I was tempted. But, buoyed by the sweet sounds of ABBA, I bid my new friends toda and headed into the sea of sweaty people. 

Offer Nissim Live Pride Concert 2019

Amazingly, I found them, and we danced from the front of the crowd as an incredible production unfolded in front of us, including my favorite number, one in which dancing balloon vaginas filled the stage and mesmerized us with synchronized dance number to a very catchy original tune

Offer Nissim Live Pride Concert 2019

Offer Nissim Live Pride Concert 2019

As the night progressed, I learned some very exciting lessons. Chief among them? Gay raves are an excellent place for women with small bladders to party. Sixty thousand people, and no one in line for the ladies’ porta potties!

Offer Nissim Live Pride Concert 2019

Offer Nissim Live Pride Concert 2019

Two? Never, ever agree to be a passenger on a Bird scooter under the influence. No matter how badly you want to get home. No matter how few cabs there are to get you there. 

Offer Nissim Live Pride Concert 2019

Three? No one parties quite like the Israelis do. 

Offer Nissim Live Pride Concert 2019

In fact, I partied so hard at Pride that I never made it to Eilat after all. I just couldn’t stand to leave Tel Aviv! In fact, I got dragged away by the only thing that could — my Wander Women Retreats.

As for the details of that aren’t fit for the internet, I’m going to have to commit to my pledge that what happens at TLV Pride stays at TLV Pride. Or ya know, goes in my tell all book that I vow I’ll hold in my hands someday. 

Tel Aviv Pride Parade

But overall, wow, what an absolute confetti explosion of joy to experience this celebration of love and diversity and self acceptance alongside a quarter million people in the Middle East of all places — not a region traditionally known for tolerance and acceptance, but one that is known for always surprising me. 

Even in Beirut, a liberal enclave in neighboring Lebanon that I often compare to Tel Aviv, the organizer of the gay pride parade was arrested, post-event. What happens here in Israel is something to celebrate. 

In fact, I’m coming back — and bringing my Dad — this summer!

Israel Pride Parade

Thinking of joining us? Don’t leave home without the following!

My Pride Essentials

a bum bag
comfortable yet fabulous party shoes
biodegradeable glitter
something epic and fun to wear!

Israel Pride Parade

Have you celebrated Pride Month before? Where?
❤️🧡💛💚💙
 

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Tel Aviv Pride Parade
Tel Aviv Pride Parade
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14 Comments...
  • Cissy
    April 5 2020

    You know there is a pandemic here right?

    You haven’t addressed it and just constantly inbox us with travels of old.

    You look like a money machine. That will dry out.

    I’ve unsubscribed!

    • Alex
      April 6 2020

      Hey Cissy, I’m definitely aware there is a global pandemic going on. I have addressed it — the impact it’s having on me personally, on the world of travel, and on the world at large — regularly on my social media channels. I have tried to be of service by promoting wellness-focused practices, and giving away generously to charities helping those in need, for example.

      Actually, with ad rates and blog traffic at an all-time low, now more than ever I am writing not for profit but for the routine and stability it brings to my life, and the escapism and hope for the future it brings to my readers lives.

      I understand everyone is processing this differently and I completely understand if reading about travel isn’t serving you right now. However I thank you for this comment as it prompted me to reach out and see what my audience is craving right now and the overwhelming majority asked me to continue on with sharing my past trips. I am also going to add an updated disclaimer to the start of all new blogposts.

      I hope you find something that provides you what you’re looking for right now <3 Sending love and peace.

  • Kate
    April 5 2020

    I know I’ll make it to Israel one day—my husband is Jewish and he has conflicting feelings about Israel’s government and how they treat their neighbors. But that aside, the country looks amazing and obviously so interesting. Love your new posts, I love following along on your journey!

    • Alex
      April 6 2020

      It is such a complicated topic and one I feel so grateful to have started learning about first-hand. I look forward to traveling to Palestine someday when it is safe to travel again, as well (though, obviously, not for Pride, ha…)

      • Kate
        April 6 2020

        Such an amazing area! I can’t wait to read more and more about your travels!! Thank you for posting now, more than ever, it fills me with hope for the future.

        • Alex
          April 7 2020

          That really fills me up to hear, Kate. My wanderlust is more alive than ever and I’ll return to the road with a new sense of purpose when it’s safe to do so again.

  • Aussie Jo
    April 5 2020

    So nice

    • Alex
      April 6 2020

      It was the best! Thanks for your loyal readership, Jo!

  • becky hutner
    April 6 2020

    Ahhhh! This makes me nostalgic for so many festivals and happy sunshine-y friend & booze filled days from a past that seems so very far away 🙁 Tel Aviv Pride was never on my list but it sure as hell is now.

    FYI – this is the only non-Covid content I’m doing right now. I really appreciate your balance between acknowledging & acting on what’s happening & giving us the same brilliant, thoughtful travel coverage we love you for. Your content is as much about storytelling as it is selling us on a particular destination & at a time when travel is pretty much impossible, I think that’s why I’m turning to you over other travel media. Keep it up Alex!

    • Alex
      April 7 2020

      I really appreciate that Becky! Like, so much. Writing is giving me such a sense of purpose and routine right now — I’m really grateful that it’s resonating with others right now too.

  • Love it! Love it! Love it!

    At a time like this, fun posts that have a really good story-writing angle are exactly what I want to read, not buy this, buy that!

    I’m a travel blogger myself.

    I’ve chosen to write a blend of informative “what-covid19-is” posts mixed with a sprinkling of “things-to-do/see/watch/read” on my blog, while we hunker down.

    On Twitter & Facebook, I’m more the serious face of a reliable and trusted British/German expat source of information.

    It’s nice to be reminded of a previous life! 🙂

    • Alex
      April 12 2020

      Aw, thank you! Depending on how long this situation lingers on (gosh, I hope not much longer…) I may start throwing in some quarantine content, but at the moment I have plenty of past travels to keep me busy — and my readers entertained, I hope.

  • Jemi
    April 21 2020

    Wow! I didn’t know this is how fun Pride celebration can be in Israel. Hope I can go there too to see that for myself. 🙂

    • Alex
      April 22 2020

      I can’t wait to be back here again! <3

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