Feather boas, lacquer and leather, and short shorts as far as the eye could see: About 200,000 people celebrated Tel Aviv's gay pride parade, according to city estimates released Friday.
Attendees danced in the streets to the thumping of a bass beat while drag queens with false eyelashes and glittering costumes posed for photographs. But while festivalgoers seemed, for the most part, free of any worries, several expressed criticism of Israel's government.
"I want the government to change. I want to get more rights for the community," said 17-year-old Romi Segal, from the port city of Haifa. One example: Homosexual couples are not allowed to marry in Israel.
"Tel Aviv is a very accepting place, but there are others in Israel, like Jerusalem." Her plea to the world: "More love, less hate."
Tel Aviv is seen as a bubble of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender tolerance in an otherwise unaccepting region and has become a major gay tourist destination, but in Jerusalem, ultra-Orthodox groups oppose what they call the "abomination parade."
"The main problem are the religious people in the government," said 17-year-old Mai Tzafrir, adding that they were the ones responsible for blocking the way towards equal rights for all.
Roughly 50,000 to 60,000 people took part in the parade that wound from the city centre to the beach, with many participants hoisting up signs and posters scrawled with messages such as "Time for change."
The motto for this year's parade was "Women for a Change," and the city had invited two US actors from popular cult TV series to serve as special guests: Lea Delaria from Orange is the New Black, and Alan Cumming from The Good Wife.
Delaria called for unity within the gay community. "We need to come together to stop this ridiculous infighting and present ourselves to people as the human beings that we are – united," she said to dpa.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said "the gay community has gone a long way, but I have to say frankly, there is still a long way to go."
Hundreds of police provided security for the event, which ran without incident this year, according to a spokeswoman on Friday afternoon.
Last year, an ultra-Orthodox Jew fatally stabbed a 16-year-old girl and injured six more young women during Jerusalem's gay parade.