Gay pride in Israel 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
If anyone needs further evidence of the gulf separating Tel Aviv and Jerusalem,
they might check out the LGBT travel website Gaycities.com, which has named Tel
Aviv the best gay city of 2011.
The website refers to Tel Aviv as “the
city that never takes a break” and calls the LGBT life there “perhaps the most
vibrant in the Middle East.” The write-up praises the openness of the city by
the sea and says that thanks to “the democratic tradition of Israel, the gay
community enjoys political freedom as in no other middle-eastern
Thousands march in Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride Parade
Gaycities.com says that “rarely a month goes by that Tel Aviv
isn’t celebrating some musical or cultural event,” adding that “huge dance
parties” host local and European DJs each weekend.
Tel Aviv garnered the
support of 43 percent of the website’s voters, followed by New York City (14%),
Toronto (7%), Sao Paolo (6%), Madrid (5%), London (5%), New Orleans (4%) and
Mexico City (4%).
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai greeted the news on Wednesday
by writing on his Facebook page that “victory in this competition further
highlights the fact that Tel Aviv is a city that respects all people equally,
and allows all people to live according to their values and desires. This is a
free city in which everyone can feel proud, and be proud of who they
The victory came only four days after Minerva, Tel Aviv’s only
Lesbian bar, closed its doors after 14 years as a mainstay of the city’s LGBT
community. In its place, the owners plan to put up a luxury
Itai Pinkas, head of Tel Aviv’s municipal LGBT center, said
that such surveys and contests indicate the growing progress the city has made
in putting itself on the LGBT tourist map.
‘Tel Aviv in recent years has
gained the status as a place where it’s fun to be a gay tourist or a gay
resident,” he said. “The number of people who visit keeps growing, and the
word-of-mouth just increases.”
Pinkas said that Tel Aviv was an
attractive destination for LGBT tourists because it combined the beach and urban
cultural attractions, unlike other cities, which typically have just one or the
other. He added that the city also benefitted from being just a day-trip away
from historical and religious destinations like Jerusalem.
He also said
that gay tourists tend to spend more money than non-gay tourists and that the
city and country had benefited greatly from this. He noted that while Tel Aviv
had invested significant funds in promoting itself as a gay-friendly
destination, the real credit went to tourists who return home and come back with
Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the Association for Civil
Rights in Israel (ACRI) and former head of the Jerusalem LGBT community’s “Open
House” center, said he found such recognition “heartwarming,” though he added
that acceptance of LGBT people in Israel varies widely by
“Many parts of Tel Aviv are super-gay-friendly,” he explained,
“but that doesn’t mean that in other parts of the city or parts of Israel it’s
not a different story.”
El-Ad said that the gay community in Israel is “a
strong, successful, viable community” with a long list of achievements to be
proud of, specifically in such fields as equality in the workplace, pension
rights and protection against discrimination.
He added, however, that
further efforts have to be made in the realm of social acceptance.
asked about so-called “pinkwashing,” or efforts by Israeli activists to promote
the country by highlighting its tolerance of LGBT people, El-Ad said that he
hoped the complex reality would not be used to “hide human rights
“For those at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Israel who
devised the strategy of pitching Israel as a ‘gay promised land’ in the hope
that this would somehow make people... look away from very serious and worsening
human rights violations here, that’s a strategy that any decent person should
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