Gay Israel is actually a lot more popular than one would think given we are in the Middle East, after all. So, how is being a gay traveler or a LGBTQ citizen in a tiny village by the Lebanese border? And where’s the queer scene in Haifa? We've applied an imaginary gaydar-gadget to travel around Israel so you can discover all the secrets about gay society in the middle of this tiny, yet worldly, hotbed of action.
The Gay-Friendliest Cities in Israel
The White City is well known as the most desired LGBTQ destination in the world, thanks to its liberal mindset and professional-bohemian citizens who often refer to their hometown as "The State of Tel Aviv.” No one will raise an eyebrow if you happen to walk down Dizengoff handin- hand with your same-sex partner. The rainbow flag is just as common on the windows of shops, cafיs and restaurants as the trendy 'Vegan Friendly' stickers and even the flagless few are just as queer-friendly. The city is at its hottest peak in August when sexy tourists and hunky locals hit Hilton beach and mingle at Shpagat bar on Nahalat Binyamin or hook up at the newest addition to the non-stop naughty clubs – Sauna Tel Aviv, by the Cinematheque on Carlebach Street.
Tip of the month: Check out the ongoing events of TLVFest, Israel’s one and only LGBTQ movie festival, holding monthly screenings of gay-themed masterpieces from Israel and all over the world.
June 5-15, Tel Aviv Cinematheque, 2 Shprinzak St, TLVFest.com
Hold your breath – The Holy City is not reserved solely for religious pilgrimages. Jerusalem hosts an annual Pride event and has gay-friendly hangouts. Yet, there’s still a long way to go – the trans-question by the Western Wall is still a bit tricky – recently headlines revealed an Israeli woman (once a man) being pushed out of the women’s side of the Kotel (Western Wall in Hebrew). On the bright side, Video Pub is the 'official' gay bar in town, while Lev Smadar Theater’s café in the heart of the German Colony is a well known LGBTQ hot spot. There’s even a drama school teaching future drag queens to be lady-like on stage and there are dozens of reform rabbis and freethinking spiritual advisors who see no harm in homosexuality. Also, Israel’s most prestigious art school, Bezalel, is located in Jerusalem, and, as we all know, gays and art go hand in hand.
Tip of the month: Read online on 'Jerusalem In Pink' tour, telling the LGBTQ history in the Golden City. What was it like to be a lesbian tourist at the beginning of the 20th century? How did people dare to write a gay love story during the British occupation of Israel?
For detailed info get in touch: email@example.com
LGBTQ Israelis often joke that if you’re gay in Ashdod, you’ll surely end up living in Tel Aviv – yet the city’s gay youth is ready to break through the stereotype with occasional peaceful pride events. Ashdod and Ashkelon are both Mediterranean towns with breathtaking beachfronts, but unlike partytown Tel Aviv, these are cities with significant traditional religious communities, often with conservative family values. Israel’s Gay Youth Organization (IGY) helps guide local kids who are looking to come out of the closet. Travelling or living in the area and want to be a part of the change? Like facebook.com/ashdodpride and offer your support.
Tip of the month: Visit Zeh Pub on Arches Beach, a gay-friendly, swank waterfront bar that is one of the rare businesses openly sponsoring the Ashdod Pride. Eager swimmers can always run for a dip between drinks.
Zeh Pub, 1 Mafkura St, Ashdod
The bay-city of Israel with its marine port, office complexes, farms and factories is the hardest-working city of Israel – some people say they have no time for fun. But behind the label, there’s a beautiful, vibrant, liberal city waiting to be explored. Haifa is often referred to as the ‘City of Coexistence,’ therefore interracial gay love affairs are very common – just turn on your Grindr app and you’ll see for yourself. Haifa also has an annual Pride Parade with over 2,000 participants, yet it is more about social justice than partying. Jewish and Arab LGBTQ activists demonstrate the subculture’s visibility in the northern city as they fight for gay rights.
Tip of the month:
Have a drink at Syncopa Bar – the restaurant hosts alternative parties and shows like 90s parties, Balkan beats, weekly gay parties and shows of famous local musicians.
Syncopa Bar, 5 Kayat St, Haifa
Don’t expect gay bars and drag queens singing songs from “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” just yet. Sadly, the Dead Sea hasn’t explored the possibility of becoming the next Mykonos. Yet, it could be. Escape to the Dead Sea – at 400 meters below sea level it’s the world’s largest natural spa filled with healthy minerals. Indulge yourself with a mud therapy for two at one of the beachfront hotels. Get muddy at Kalia Beach holiday village, spa and bar. Recreate Destiny’s Child classic “Survivor” video at the Ein Gedi oasis with your speedo-sporting friends. No one will stop you.
Tip of the month: Check out Abraham Tours for budget options, and for those heading to the magnificent Dead Sea and want to meet fun, easy going, gay Israel lovers from all over the world visit Outstanding Israel
Akko’s old city is very ‘Arabian Nights,’ so local guys sharing a cigarette, jokingly kissing each other, or holding each other riding on a tiny motor bike is nothing out of the ordinary– yet it’s more part of tradition than promoting gay acceptance. One of Israel’s most well-known trans Israeli Arab activists, Karam Dadu, produced a film centered around his homophobic family driving him away from this city. Within Akko’s Old City walls, it feels like time has stopped – old fashioned values do apply – but as an openly gay traveler visiting, there is no bullying attitude. Restaurants, cafיs and the vendors of the ever-colorful marketplace are all welcoming even though its best to follow the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.
Tip of the month: Get a rub down at Ghattas Bathhouse, a traditional Turkish bath-themed luxurious spa. The guys will give you the greatest massage ever – combining fabulous Swedish, Thai, and classic Turkish methods.
As an LGBTQ traveler it’s best to remain modest or discreet in these traditional and religious towns. Flamboyant behavior can be a trigger for deeply religious sentiments and the Palestinian Arab villages, in particular, are known to be unwelcoming to gay and extroverted behaviors like lighting up and sexy dancing, or singing in the street. Yet, if you happen to be on a kibbutz and you dream of a classic ‘country romance,’ take a look at your Grindr app – as the gay Tel Avivian proverb goes: gay ‘nature boy-kibbutznikim’ are true delicacies. Of course, cool and open minded villagers can be found everywhere. After all, many of these areas were founded by artists, foodies, botanists, vegetarians, and other creative subcultures.
Tip of the month: Many local villages offer intimate lodging called ‘tzimmers.’ Aladdin Cave, in the Golan Heights, is a gay-friendly cabin, and Etz HaHaim (Tree of Life) in the Western Galilean community, Matat, is a total stunner.
Aladdin Cave, 050-5316869; Etz HaHaim, 053-9429872