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Why Tel Aviv Is One of the Most LGBT-Friendly Cities in the World

Picture of Lior Kantor
Updated: 11 July 2018
Despite being surrounded by religious and restrictive countries, Tel Aviv’s blossoming LGBT community is progressive and open-minded, making the city not only a favourite gay tourist destination but also often a refuge for homosexuals from neighbouring countries who have experienced persecution.

Hosting the largest Pride parade in the Middle East and Asia, and dubbed by several newspapers and polls as the world’s most gay-friendly city, Tel Aviv likes showing its love of the community by opening up LGBT-dedicated apps, clubs, bars, gyms, beaches, shops, and even hotels.

The Tel Aviv Pride parade

One of the largest, more famous, and wildest celebrations held in the country, this is one worth travelling the distance for. The Pride parade takes place annually as part of Tel Aviv Pride Week, a series of events that celebrates the city’s LGBT community life. While a 1979 protest held at Rabin Square is often regarded as the city’s first Pride event, the most fitting one for the title would probably be Tel Aviv Love Parade in 1997, which has more similarities to the parade as we know it today.

Annual pride parade of the LGBT community, in the streets of Tel-Aviv, Israel | © RnDmS/Shutterstock
Annual Pride parade in Tel Aviv | | © RnDmS / Shutterstock

The parade has only gotten bigger, better and happier since then, having reached a whopping 200,000 attendants in 2017, over 30,000 of which were tourists. Themed ‘Bisexuality Visibility’, the Tel Aviv 2017 Pride parade is the first one of its kind to centre on and celebrate bisexuality.

Over the past few years, Tel Aviv municipality has been making many efforts to establish Tel Aviv’s status of one of the world’s most gay-friendly cities and draw LGBT tourists to the country. Tel Aviv-Jaffa Mayor Ron Huldai stated: “Tel Aviv Pride parade is not just a celebration, but also an important declaration of support. Tel Aviv, which has already been acknowledged as the world’s ‘most gay-friendly city’ will continue to be a light-house city – spreading the values of freedom, tolerance and democracy to the world.”

Back in 2013, one of the most famous singers in Israel, Omer Adam, who is a heterosexual Mizrahi music singer, promoted the parade by releasing a song titled ‘Tel Aviv’ which supported the gay nightlife in the city using TLV gay slang, along with a clip filmed with a gay party company and Uriel Yakutiel, an Israeli dancer and drag performer.

LGBT rights

Although there is always much progress to be made, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in Israel are the most tolerant in the Middle East, and among the most tolerant in Asia. While same-sex marriages are not performed in the country, Israel recognises cohabitation between same-sex couples, as well as same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Adoption by same-sex couples was legalised in 2008, while previously allowing stepchild adoptions and limited co-guardianship rights for non-biological parents.

Statistics

While the approximate percentage of the gay population in modern culture stands at 10%, Tel Aviv’s gay community stands at about 25%, meaning that out of the 400,000 people in the city, over 100,000 identify themselves as homosexuals. A survey published the day before Tel Aviv’s 2017 Pride parade revealed that 79% of Israelis support same-sex marriage or civil unions. Another survey, this time conducted of gay travellers back in 2012 by American Airlines and GayCities.com, showed that Tel Aviv got 43% of the votes for the ‘world’s number one gay city’ position, leaving New York, Toronto, Sao Paulo and Madrid way behind.

The ultimate gay travel destination

As previously mentioned, the Tel Aviv municipality is working hard to promote the city’s image as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, and this can be reflected in many of its actions and public events. During Pride Week, in addition to filling the city streets with rainbow flags, the Tel Aviv municipality lights up its own building at Kikar Rabin in rainbow stripes, reminding visitors and tourists alike of its support for the LGBT community.

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Tel Aviv Pride 2014 | © Ted Eytan / Flickr

Basically, you can find a gay version of almost anything in the city, from gay gyms and beaches to gay parties and even Pride-oriented tours. Because of all this love and attention that gay community in the city gets, it is not surprising at all that Tel Aviv is considered a favourite gay travel destination.