March 11, 2016

Spotlight Tel Aviv: Three Ways LGBTQ Communities Can Help Cities Thrive

By Hila Oren, CEO, Tel Aviv Yafo Foundation

Every June, Tel Aviv celebrates the city's LGBTQ community. The highlight is always the Pride Parade, the largest of its kind in the region. In 2015, it drew a record-breaking 160,000 revelers. But even more memorable was a concert by drag queen Conchita Wurst, the 2014 Eurovision winner who came to Tel Aviv to take part in its Pride Week activities. Pride Week is not only a spectacular party, but it is also an excellent opportunity to point out how the LGBTQ community has positively affected cities throughout the years and to this day. Here are three ways in which this community has impacted the places we live:

1. Diversity

Revelry aside, it is worth taking a step back and thinking about diversity as an essential ingredient for a city. It is clear that every great city is one in which there are cross-currents of people and ideas. When Jane Jacobs – the great urbanist and activist whose writings turned Modernist city planning ideology on its head – discussed the necessary ingredients for a thriving city, she described the "four generators of diversity" that "create effective economic pools of use." In the same way that Jacobs' "four generators" (mixed uses, short blocks, buildings in various conditions, density) are critical to a well-functioning city, so too is the organic integration of all kinds of people in a city, without regard to gender, religion, sexual preference, ethnicity, or anything else.

A reveler poses for a picture during the annual gay pride parade in Tel Aviv. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

2. Creative Industries

Show me a city with a thriving LGBTQ community and I will show you a city with a vibrant arts and culture scene. And if you don't believe me, then I encourage you to check out this video on the Tel Aviv Pride Parade 2015. Few events can compete with the celebration of intense creative energy on display. And it's exactly that creative energy and that fierce insistence on tolerance to diversity which attract Richard Florida's creative class, a group whose presence is critical for any city wanting to remain globally competitive.

Conchita Wurst of Austria performs at a party held after a gay pride parade in Tel Aviv. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

3. Progress

In many cities, including my own city of Tel Aviv, the LGBTQ community has been a tireless campaigner for human rights, for equality, and for multiculturalism. In fighting for their own rights, they have highlighted issues of equality and acceptance for many marginalized groups, in addition to their own. And for that we should all be grateful. And proud.

Revelers wave rainbow flags during the annual gay pride parade in Tel Aviv. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly
On a more personal note, as a city maker I see it as my duty – and as my privilege – to remove barriers to enable the creation of a hub for all in Tel Aviv, to work towards fostering an open and inviting space that can be home to all of the city's partners: residents, citizens, students, tourists, old, and young. On behalf of Tel Aviv, I invite you to come and experience the wonders of the city for yourself.


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The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is an independent, nonpartisan organization. All statements of fact and expressions of opinion in blog posts are the sole responsibility of the individual author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council.


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