“Israel is the most gay friendly nation in the Middle East” – as the headlines say, but what’s behind the rainbow-colored slogan? For all the skeptics and fans of Tel Aviv, Kristóf Yosef Steiner breaks down the White City’s major attributes
First and foremost: No one asks you to choose between your religion and sexual orientation
Regardless of being Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, if you are searching, you’ll always find a welcoming spiritual atmosphere. Even some orthodox organizations teach acceptance and tolerance – check out the legendary transgender scholar, Yiscah Smith’s lectures in Jerusalem, or visit the Kabbalah Centre in Tel Aviv, Haifa or Tiberias to ask a teacher about the connection of homosexuality and spirituality according to mystical Judaism
Hetero and homosexual couples in registered partnerships have equal rights
Although there’s no civil marriage in Israel – not even for women and men. The option of registering yourself as a couple with your boyfriend/girlfriend will give you identical rights to a straight couple with the same legal status. Even happier news: according to a recent poll, almost two thirds of Israel’s population supports equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Tel Aviv is officially the best gay city in the world
Thanks to its world class Pride week along the shores of the Mediterranean, and never-ending parties in steamy clubs, Tel Aviv has been named the world’s number one gay city, outranking even New York City. The survey carried out by American Airlines and GayCities.com shows that the most popular destination for gay travelers – with 43 % of the votes, is the eternal White City.
For additional information about the LGBTQ party and cultural scene in Tel Aviv, see: White City Boy
Gay families are no strangers to Israel
There are over 18,000 gay and lesbian households in Israel and over 3,000 children are raised by two fathers or mothers. Tel Aviv has the second fastest growing gay family population in the world. Hundreds of workshops and conventions take place in the city, and dozens of professionals specialize in the needs of LGBTQ families in Israel.
For more info on same sex couples building a family in Israel schedule a meeting at Baby Bloom
If you married abroad, you are married here as well
Same-sex marriages performed abroad are legally recognized in Israel – all you need to do is register your relations at the Administration of Immigration, and if you happen to have kids adopted or born abroad, and you are both the children’s legal caretakers, Israel will recognize you both as parents with all the rights that come with it.
Local celebrities often raise their voice promoting equality
The gay capital of the Middle East has its own GLBTQ icons – the guys and girls who paved the road to today’s liberal, fun and free Israel. Just to mention a couple of them: ever since she won 1998’s Eurovision Song Contest Dana International never stopped influencing the scene. Another idol, singer song writer Ivri Lider recently spoke out “I felt coming out was kind of my obligation. Maybe I can influence people and help younger people with that struggle.”
Whatever your “type”, you’ll find it here – in men, women, and food
Israel is not only a cultural and culinary melting pot of European and Eastern spices (look out for the world-class vegan food!), but it’s also a sexy blend of people from different backgrounds. You’ll surely find whatever you crave: the blue-eyed Eastern European blondie, and the smokey-eyed dark haired beauty, the love children of both, and many more beautiful mixes. All colors, all shapes, all sizes – ready to find love.
You’ll learn the truth about so-called “pinkwashing”
There are people all over the world who accuse Israel of promoting its gay acceptance to steal the attention from the conflicts in the country and its bad reputation. Like any country in the world, Israel has its pros and cons, but from the angle of an LGBTQ person, it’s a leading example for many African, Eastern European and even European countries.
To learn about the ongoing LGBTQ programs for Arab youth in Israel, see: Gay Center
The gay society doesn’t put pressure on you
The ultimate “Tel Aviv Style” is all about wearing exactly what you want to wear. There’s no pressure to follow the latest trends: you can be a hippie, a club kid, a gym bunny, an office chic, or just wear flip-flops and tank tops all year around – no one will raise an eyebrow. Wanna shop? Find fast fashion on Dizengoff Street and the Tel Aviv port, cheap necessities on King George Street, High Street shopping in Kikar Hamdina, boho-chic in Jaffa, cool stuff for skaters and hip-hop boys on Bugrashov, and a mix of everything on Sheinkin Street.
The ultimate gay icon, Madonna, is a huge Israel fan
The best-selling female artist of all time once called herself “an ambassador of Judaism.” She visits Tel Aviv and Jerusalem from time to time, and she kicked off her previous MDNA World Tour in Tel Aviv. Now with her new album Rebel Heart rocking the charts, we rarely pass a month without a major Madonna party – some in small and intimate bars playing demos and B-sides, others in gigantic clubs with Madge’s favorite Israeli DJ, Offer Nissim spinning his original remixes of classic M songs.
To join Israeli fans of the Material Girl, see: Facebook
by Kristóf Yosef Steiner
Source – Time Out