Sunday, 31 May 2015

City Pride : Tel Aviv and the Aguda

The Aguda is Israel’s first lgbt organisation and in 9 days time will begin celebrating its 40th anniversary with a 3-day conference in the city in which it was founded, Tel Aviv. The celebrations are timed to coincide with Tel Aviv Pride, and as this is the largest Pride event in Asia we’re looking at some of its lgbt heritage.

First of all, we’ll look at The Aguda itself. The name is taken from the Hebrew for “the association” and is the short version of its full English name, the Israeli Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Association. It was founded in 1975 under the name of the Society for the Protection of Personal Rights. The present name was officially adopted in 1999, and organised Israel’s first lgbt Pride in 1997.

The anniversary conference is the largest world gathering of lgbt community leaders to be held in Tel Aviv and is being organised by The Aguda in conjunction with A Wider Bridge, an American lgbt organisation. The first keynote speaker will be Christophe Girard, the openly gay French mayor, and the conference ends with another by Seattle mayor Ed Murray.

So, what are the snippets of Tel Aviv’s lgbt heritage have I chosen to feature in today’s City Pride? Well, here they are:

1) Gan Meir Park : Possibly the main hub of lgbt heritage in the city. The municipal LGBT Community Centre is located in this park. The park contains the memorials to lgbt Holocaust victims and to the victims of the 2009 shooting outside The Aguda’s office (no. 6). The annual Tel Aviv Pride parade had begun from here in recent years.

2) Rabin Square (formerly known as the Kings of Israel Square) : This was the location for Tel Aviv’s, and indeed Israel’s, first ever lgbt  Pride parade called the Tel Aviv Love Parade which took place in 1997.

3) Tel Aviv City Council building : The first lgbt elected to political office in Israel was Tel Aviv lawyer Michal Eden. She was elected as a city councillor in 1998. A campaigner since she was in her 20s Michal fought to secure registration for lgbt couples. Before being elected she founded an emergency refuge for lgbt teenagers.

4) Independence Park : For several years this was the venue for Tel Aviv’s annual drag festival called Wigstock. In 1998 there was confusion between the festival organisers and the police over what time the event was supposed to finish. Crowds and police spilled out of the park and into the streets in what has been called the “Wigstock Riots”.

5) The Aguda’s head office.

6) The Royal Beach Hotel : The venue for the Aguda’s 40th anniversary conference.

7) The French Consulate : To tie in with Mayor Girard’s keynote speech at the conference I include the French Consulate because it was the work place of gay French diplomat called Gérard Araud. He began his diplomatic career here as First Secretary from 1982 to 1984. He returned as full Ambassador to Israel from France from 2003 to 2006.

8) Evita Bar : Tel Aviv’s oldest permanent gay bar. It started life as a coffee-restaurant in 2000 and has developed and grown into one of the city’s main lgbt venues.

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