Tel Aviv: The New Gay Travel Hotspot

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Let me begin by saying this … (and I work with an Israeli based company) There is Israel, there is Jerusalem, and then there is TEL AVIV! Certainly in the same family but like every family, they are very different in personality. Tel Aviv, is considered the “Gay Mecca” of the middle-east but did not earn that title by accident. It actually has been quite calculated on their part. You might even say that the “coming out” of Tel Aviv was based solely on good business instinct with many other wonderful destinations anxious to follow. Only four or five years ago it was determined that the city of Tel Aviv had all the ingredients necessary to become the leading gay tourist destination: warm weather, pristine beaches, a vibrant nightlife, a thriving gay community and (sigh) some of the hottest men on the planet. It has been said that Israeli men are the country’s biggest natural resource when it comes to gay tourism. There was a problem. Who knew? A couple of years later, after a few well spent shekels and even enlisting the influence of guys like Parez Hilton, many people have learned about Tel Aviv and many have proclaimed it “The Gayest City in the World”. This was also the “official” opinion of American Airlines and Soon gay men from all over the world were flocking to Tel Aviv by the thousands. I won’t go into the details of Israel’s Gay marketing strategy but basically they stopped pushing Israel and began promoting Tel Aviv as a Gay destination. Soon they were ordering more rainbow flags to welcome more and more gay guests. Gay interest in and travel to Tel Aviv has increased drastically. On Israel they are calling it the “Gayby Boom”! Isn’t that outstanding?

Unlike other gay-friendly cities such as New York and Los Angeles where gays live in so-called “gay ghettos” like Chelsea and West Hollywood, there is no specific “Gayborhood” in Tal Aviv. Every café and restaurant is gay-friendly. Gay tourists and residents are comfortable in Tel Aviv because the people are welcoming and open minded. One can stroll down Tel Aviv’s grandest avenue, Rothschild Boulevard on any given day and see dozens of Gay couples holding hands as well as a number of same sex couples pushing baby strollers.

If one had to choose a physical nucleus of “Gay Tel Aviv” it would be right in the middle of town, in the area of Rothschild Boulevard and Shenkin Street. This area is rife with boutique hotels, restaurants, shops, cafes and some stunning Bauhaus architecture. Bauhaus is a movement from the 1930’s very pastel and clean looking and many neighborhoods are of museum quality. Tel Aviv is noted for the area is very unique and utterly beautiful. I found it very interesting that the “Gayest” section of Tel Aviv is also the most beautiful. No surprise there.

Naturally the true heart of Tel Aviv for everyone, regardless of who they are attracted to is the beach. One would not visit this town without some time being spent playing, swimming, sunning, showing off or cruising the beaches. The official and most popular Gay beach is just beneath the landmark Tel Aviv Hilton and most sunny days are definitely “hot and happening” there. The beach is within walking distance of anything of gay interest, and is the gay hot spot to see and be seen at and throughout the summer. There are special activities and late night swim parties with swim suits optional. In the daytime you need to be dealing with your tan lines again. I personally like tan lines myself. My first trip to a nude beach was in St. Martin years ago. After a couple of beers, I walked confidently down to the clothing optional area and the first thing I saw was some old guy wearing brown trunks entering the water. It was not until he turned around and I realized he was naked and all the dark flesh colored “fabric” was really his sagging, wrinkly old ass! Buzz kill! Some things are better left covered. But, I digress.

Another great thing about Tel Aviv is that since the country of Israel is about the size of New Jersey, many outstanding and memorable historical sites are within a short drive. The unsurpassed glory of Jerusalem with treasures like no place else on earth or the Dead Sea with the dense salt water which is so sensual, sexual and just feels amazing. In short, Tel Aviv offers a vacation, educational or business trip like no other. Everything you could possibly want in addition to being able to be who you are in warm tropical comfort. I don’t think it gets any better than that.

In one of the oldest civilizations on Earth comes an honest decision to treat others with the respect they deserve. Perhaps Jews have known for a very long time what it feels like to be run out of land which is rightfully yours, expected to live in approved parts of town and just generally be treated like there is something wrong with you based on how you feel and who you are. It does not surprise that Tel Aviv would be open to creating a safe haven for us in the Middle-East.

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