Tel Aviv Pride march to return June 25

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Revellers celebrate along a sea side avenue in Tel Aviv during the Israeli city's annual Gay Pride parade on June 8, 2018

Tel Aviv's annual Pride celebration considered the Middle East's largest is set for June 25, the municipality announced Monday, one year after the coronavirus pandemic forced its cancellation.

More than 250,000 people attended the parade in 2019, according to the municipality, which said the June Gay Pride march will be one of the world's first on such a scale since Covid-19 began spreading.

"Pride events in Tel Aviv-Yafo are a long-standing tradition, centred on a message of equality, acceptance, and human and civil rights," said the city's mayor Ron Huldai in a statement.

Tel Aviv, whose first Pride march dates to 1998, is "proud to be a groundbreaking city in its approach to the LGBTQ community" the mayor said.

Tel Aviv is considered among the world's friendliest cities for LGBTQ+ residents and visitors, and Israel among the Middle East's more progressive countries when it comes to gender equality.

But activists have voiced concerns over what they see as a growing segment of Israeli lawmakers who espouse anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and oppose equal rights measures.

Jerusalem's smaller-scale Pride march that hosted some 8,000 participants took place under heavy security over fears of violence, with ultra-right wing groups calling for counter-demonstrations.

On July 30, 2015, an ultra-Orthodox Jew stabbed to death teenager Shira Banki during the parade and wounded six others, since when the annual event has been heavily protected.

Some 55 percent of Israel's population has been fully vaccinated with two doses.

The country has lifted many of its public health restrictions, with the indoor mask rule set to expire June 15, according to the health ministry.

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