Several thousand people are participating the gay pride parade in Tel Aviv today.

Participants are walking from central Rabin Square to a downtown beach, with entertainment from DJs, bands and performance artists.

Police have reported no serious incidents, despite threatened opposition from rightwing and religious campaigners.

The parade has taken place every year in Tel Aviv since 1998.

Mike Hamel, chair of the National Association of the Gay Lesbian and Bi community in Israel said he hoped the revellers would attend the “sand, sun, and lots of fun” merged with a political rally.

He told The Middle Eastern Times: “It’s an empowering experience. It’s uplifting and at the same time it’s meaningful. It’s not just a party. It’s not just music and fun. It’s a political rally talking about human rights.”

The parade comes just two days after parliament passed the first reading of a bill which would allow lawmakers in Jerusalem to ban such parades.

The bill needs three more readings to become law, but it is opposed by Prime Minster Ehud Olmert. One of his daughters is openly gay.

Today’s Economist describes how many gay Palestinians find refuge in Israel, but the political climate is making it more difficult for many to do so.