Israel is without a doubt the best country in the Middle East for gay and lesbian individuals to live. In addition to the fact that gay people can serve openly in the Israeli military, Israeli governments have been promoting social equality for LGBT people for more than a decade. It should come as no surprise then that Israel’s capital of cool, Tel Aviv, has gained a reputation as one of the world’s top destinations for gay men. If you haven’t yet added Tel Aviv to your travel itinerary, here are some reasons you should make a last-minute addition.
Tel Aviv Gay Nightlife
Although Tel Aviv’s nightlife is generally regarded as among the best in the world, this is particularly the case when it comes to gay establishments. One reason gay nightlife in Tel Aviv is so exciting is that the Tel Aviv gay scene revolves around weekly parties, rather than specific bars or clubs like most cities around the world.
This isn’t to say that certain gay bars aren’t extremely popular. Evita, for example, located just a block south of trendy Rothschild Boulevard, is one of Tel Aviv’s oldest gay bars and is a popular meeting place for gays seven days per week. Some visit Evita prior to whatever party is going on that night, while others stay there all night for events like Bingo, Eurovision Karaoke, and other festivities.
Even if you don’t plan to stay there, Evita is a great place to figure out what’s going on later in the night. Both bartenders and fellow bargoers can give you an overview of the parties that are happening – and if you’re lucky, you might even get put on the VIP list for free entry.
Once you arrive at the venue for the party, be prepared for a night unlike any other. Tel Aviv parties tend not only to be large – one of the best ones I attended was held at Bloq, a large arena located near the Tel Aviv bus station – but Israelis know perhaps better than any other people in the world how to let loose. Copious amounts of alcohol, dancing and some things I can’t mention here are to be expected.
Gay Beaches in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv’s nightlife isn’t the only reason millions of tourists from around the world flock there every year. The city’s incredible Mediterranean beaches have also received international acclaim, both for their crystal clear waters, white sands and the number of attractive people that can be found sunbathing there.
Although gays swim at nearly every beach in Tel Aviv, the surest spot to find “family” is at Hilton Beach, located just in front of the Hilton Tel Aviv hotel. Although heterosexual people come to this beach as well, you can expect most of your fellow patrons to be gay. Single men, couples, and groups of friends alike flock to Hilton Beach to enjoy sun, sand and surf.
Hilton Beach tends to be most crowded on Fridays and Saturdays, which constitute the weekend in Israel. If you aren’t looking to flirt or socialize, avoid visiting Hilton Beach on these days and go instead during the week when the beach is empty enough that you can focus your energy or catch rays or go for a swim.
Tel Aviv’s Hilton Beach is a quick cab ride from anywhere in the Tel Aviv area. Or, if you’re staying in central Tel Aviv, you can walk to the beach. Simply head north on Dizengoff Street until you hit Jabotinsky Street, then take a left and walk down to the water.
Tel Aviv Gay Pride
Tel Aviv hosts the only public gay pride parade in the entire Middle East, which is held annually the first weekend of June. As being gay is legal and mostly accepted in Israel, locals and visitors alike hold nothing back in the parade, which is a wild party in and of itself. Expect lots of sexy men dancing on floats and in the crowd, as well as drag queens and queer people of all sorts.
Tel Aviv Pride has quickly become one of the most popular pride events in the entire world. Last year more than 100,000 people attended, both Israeli and foreign. The parade is typically kicked off by Tel Aviv’s mayor and travels through the heart of the city, ending at the Tel Aviv Beach – in particular, Hilton Beach and Gordon Beach.
The best part of Tel Aviv pride is not the parade itself, but the fact that Tel Aviv’s gay nightlife gets even wilder during pride. Not only will bars and clubs be packed to the gills, but you can expect a dramatic increase in the number of parties, as well as the number of people you find there. The most difficult part about attending Tel Aviv pride is choosing which of the many events best suits you.
Acceptance of Gays in Tel Aviv
Israel is without a doubt the most accepting and open Middle Eastern country when it comes to gay people. Not only is being gay in Israel perfectly legal, but public opinion about gay rights is decidedly positive. Although it is always possible to experience discrimination, you are not likely to encounter more than the occasional stray comment or dirty look.
Before I visited Tel Aviv, one of my friends there told me that it was more difficult to find straight men in Tel Aviv than it was to find gay men. Although I doubt this is actually the case, gay people are very visible in Tel Aviv and are not shy about publicly expressing their affection for one another. If you enjoy an evening stroll along Ben Tsion Boulevard, for example, it’s common to see gay couples and families walking right along straight ones.
The best part of homosexuality being so tolerated in Tel Aviv is that Israeli men tend to be very open about their feelings for you, if they have them. While you might spend hours in another city wondering “Is he or isn’t he?”, you’ll learn very quickly whether an Israeli man is into you. If he is, he’ll make very obvious eye contact and may even ask if he can sit down at your table.
Indeed, whether you come to Tel Aviv for the gay nightlife, to lie on a gay beach, to experience gay pride or just to enjoy the company of fellow gays, there is perhaps no better gay destination in the Middle East and very few others in the world. 2012 has only barely gotten underway, so consider adding Tel Aviv to your schedule if it isn’t there yet.
See the author’s gallery for more photos of Israel’s capital of cool, Tel Aviv.
Robert Schrader is a writer, photographer, and travel coach who has visited Israel twice thus far. He edits Leave Your Daily Hell, a blog to which more than 20,000 travelers per month turn for expert advice on how to travel more often. Follow Robert on Twitter, add him to one of your Google+ circles, “Like” Leave Your Daily Hell on Facebook or subscribe to email updates for destination guides, practical advice and inspirational essays delivered daily.