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Tel Aviv: Middle East’s Most Gay Friendly City

Gay friendly and just over the rainbow, Tel Aviv is a happy place to be! It’s a gay city in the old and new connotations of the word. Known as the most gay friendly city in the Middle East, Tel Aviv draws particular attention with its gay pride celebrated in June. However, regardless if you are gay or straight, there is no reason to why one should wait for the next pride week in 2018 to visit and enjoy this fabulous city. However, if you want to visit Tel Aviv in June for Pride, plan it now!

View of Tel Aviv from Kedumim Square - Jaffa, israel
View of Tel Aviv from Kedumim Square – Jaffa, I1srael

The history of this city of about half a million people, bathed by the Mediterranean Sea and featuring stark 1930’s Bauhaus buildings, is quite fascinating. The Bauhaus architecture found in thousands of buildings clustered in the ‘White City’ architectural area gives a nostalgic and romantic flare to the city of Tel Aviv. Putting it in context: in a country with a population of just over eight million people, Tel Aviv is part of the largest metropolitan area in Israel. Known as the Gush Dan, in Hebrew, or the Dan Bloc, it comprises almost half of the population of Israel.

Diamonds, hi-tech, and tourism are the backbone of the Israeli economy, making it an attractive destination for not only tourists but to many in the hi-tech industry who have made Israel their home. The Silicon Wadi, in Hebrew meaning literally Silicon Valley, covers a high concentration of hi-tech in Israel in the area of Tel Aviv, including the cities of Ra’anana, Petah Tikva, Herzliya, Netanya, the academic city of Rehovot and its neighbor Rishon Le Zion. Additionally, hi-tech clusters are also found in Haifa and Caesarea. Most recently, hi-tech industrial parks have been developed in Jerusalem and surroundings. All of which make Israel a breeding ground for start-ups fostering creativity and innovation.

Nonetheless, besides the economic boom in Israel in the past decade, socio-economic issues still remain a hurdle in the Israeli society. So, it is not surprising that Israelis, mainly the younger ones, will openly vent their frustrations and complain about their daily struggles.

Fresh fruits and produce in one of Sarona Market's 91 stalls, shops, and restaurants of all categories. With over 93,600 square feet, Sarona is the largest indoor market in Tel Aviv, Israel
Fresh fruits and produce in one of Sarona Market’s 91 stalls, shops, and restaurants of all categories. With over 93,600 square feet, Sarona is the largest indoor market in Tel Aviv, Israel

Rents are high compared to income, making the cost of living quite high. Although Tel Aviv is the most expensive city in Israel, it is also a city that has long embraced diversity and inclusiveness. Its charm, fashion and arts, beaches, great weather, outdoorsy lifestyle, and an amazing night life has attracted many people from Europe to emigrate to Tel Aviv in the past decade or so; many of whom  are gays who find freedom, quality of living, entertainment, and professional opportunities to be the reasons to call it home. Not surprisingly, gay friendly Tel Aviv continues to be a great destination for LGBTQ travelers with a number of cafes and gay bars and clubs spreading across the city in its more fashionable and glamorous areas.

In my recent visit to Tel Aviv, I did find out that as LGBTQ people continue to become more and more visible and part of mainstream society in Israel, and, Tel Aviv more and more gay friendly, most of the old gay bars and clubs such as Evita are now closed. Some locals argued that online dating aps bare the blame of the closing of exclusively gay bars and clubs. However, it seems to me that it is more the result of how gay friendly and inclusive the city has become. With less reason to be segregated and forced into exclusive gay venues, the gay population has folded into the general night life and expanded its visibility in the social life of Tel Aviv. What really matters though, is that everyone is having a great, fabulous time in this amazing gay friendly oasis in the Middle East.

I landed in Tel Aviv early in the evening of the beginning of Purim and I was greeted by perhaps the most welcoming, chatty and cheerful immigration officer in can remember in a long time. It was him who reminded me that the festivities began that evening and I should make sure to go out that night. I knew that by the time I made to my hotel and checked in it would be close to midnight and after a long flight perhaps I would be exhausted? But, there is always one thing that can be counted on: it’s that energy that sets in and erases any discomfort on a long flight.

There is something that any first time visitor should know about Israelis! At first they can scare you! There is a certain toughness that comes across as rude. But, that’s all for show! Israelis like to compare themselves to the thorny desert cactus fruit called Sabra. Despite its rough outer look, it is sweet as honey in the inside.  The comparison could not be more on point! Once you overcome the external attitude you realize that there is no more welcoming and sweet people to be with.

On that first night in Tel Aviv it took only a few minutes to meet new friends. One of them could not stand the fact that I did not have a costume for Purim, so he got me one! So, then dressed for the party I had a great time and returned to the hotel in time for breakfast. I had taken a cab to Shpagat on 43 Nahalat Binyamin Street only to find out that it was impossible to get in. The party had sprawled onto the street and by the time the night was over I had already met a number of people and been invited to dinner parties and other events. For the next couple of weeks I returned to Shpagat a few times. With its unique design and atmosphere, hot guys and great music, Shpagat is one of the best spots in Tel Aviv.

To many in Israel, breakfast is the main meal of the day. And one can not be disappointed with breakfast in Israel. Most of the cafes serve breakfast all day. Avid consumers of fruits, vegetables and juices, Israelis love coffee, beer, and wine. Do not be shy to include beer or wine to finish breakfast and start your happy hour at ten in the morning!

Typical Israeli Shakshuka breakfast dish - Hilton Beach area in Tel Aviv, Israel
Typical Israeli Shakshuka breakfast dish – Hilton Beach area in Tel Aviv, Israel

I particularly liked to return to one place that was close to my hotel and because of it’s charming, relaxed atmosphere. Jeremiah, at 306 Diezengoff on the corner of Yermiyahu adds to its great breakfast selection, a feel of a ‘neighborhood’ café. However, no matter where you go in this truly gay friendly city you will enjoy the charming European style cafes with an added Middle Eastern character that abounds in Tel Aviv. Either at the ritzy cafes and gay friendly restaurants on Rothschild Avenue or enjoying the first hours of the day at one of the many casual restaurants on the beach, there are just too many options to choose from to start or end your day.

Tel Aviv's skyline and beaches
Tel Aviv’s skyline and beaches

The Tel Aviv Gay Pride Festival and Parade is organized by the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality which already announced next years Pride week’s schedule. Pride week kicks-off on June 3, 2018, and the Tel Aviv Pride Parade takes place on Friday, June 8, 2018. The Tel Aviv-Yafo Gay Center may be contacted for additional information via office@gaycenter.org.il and a quick Google search land several options for packages which include visits to other locations and sites in Israel and Jordan. If partying your heart out at night and relaxing on the beach as the sun comes out is your thing; stay in Tel Aviv-Yafo! There’s no better place to party and get the perfect tan in the Middle East.

 

 

 

One thought on “Tel Aviv: Middle East’s Most Gay Friendly City

  1. […] recently wrote in my blog Tel  Aviv: Middle East’s Most Gay Friendly City that it is not only the Tel Aviv’s Pride Festival that attracts travelers from most corners […]

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