Tel Aviv is one of the few places in the Middle East where gays are free to walk hand-in-hand and kiss in public. However on Friday Tel Aviv was filled with tens of thousands of LGBT people holding hands, as they took part in the city’s annual gay pride parade, the largest event of its kind in the Middle East.
Tel Aviv has emerged as one of the world’s most gay-friendly travel destinations in recent years. The city’s openness to LGBTs stands in contrast to conservative Jerusalem, just a short drive away.
In Israel is becoming more liberal, the LGBT community can now serve openly in military and parliament. However, leaders of the gay community say Israel still has far to go in promoting equality. There is still no gay marriage in Israel, primarily because there is no civil marriage of any kind. All Jewish weddings must be conducted through the Jewish rabbinate, which considers homosexuality a sin and a violation of Jewish law. But the state recognises same-sex couples who marry abroad.
Across the rest of the Middle East, gay and lesbian relationships are mostly taboo, with same-sex relations being punishable by death in Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.
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