TEL AVIV PRIDE

DNA Magazine - - CONTENT -

WITH ITS AN­NUAL PRIDE EVENT, DAZ­ZLING BEACHES AND GOR­GEOUS MEN PAR­TY­ING HARD, TEL AVIV IS THE MID­DLE EAST’S GREAT GAY OA­SIS! STORY AND PHO­TOS BY MARC AN­DREWS.

There aren’t many cities in the Mid­dle East where you can walk hand-in-hand with your boyfriend down the street with­out wor­ry­ing about be­ing has­sled, abused or ex­e­cuted. In fact, Is­rael’s un­of­fi­cial cap­i­tal Tel Aviv ( Jerusalem is the of­fi­cial one) is re­ally the only city in the Mid­dle East where you can. That’s why in re­cent years it has be­come such a gay oa­sis, with rain­bow-flagged tourists from all cor­ners of the globe flock­ing to Tel Aviv Pride ev­ery June.

While there is a con­stant air of po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty sur­round­ing Is­rael (some years there are “se­cu­rity is­sues” with Le­banon, oth­ers it is Egypt and this year it is Syria), not to men­tion the on­go­ing sit­u­a­tion with Pales­tini­ans on the Gaza Strip, some­how you can for­get all of that once you en­ter the gor­geous, gay-friendly bub­ble of Tel Aviv.

In many ways it’s a city rem­i­nis­cent of Los An­ge­les, with a young, hip, hi-tech pop­u­la­tion and a life­style bask­ing in golden beaches, end­less he­do­nis­tic nights and some of the best frozen yo­gurt in the world.

For 2013’s Pride party, a record-break­ing 100,000 peo­ple, many from abroad, took part in the street pro­ces­sion. Many were not gay, but sim­ply happy to show sup­port for the LGBT com­mu­nity (and be­cause the lo­cal gays throw a crack­ing free beach party at the end).

Rain­bow flags with the Star Of David, or boldly em­bla­zoned with the word “Peace” were com­mon­place, set­ting the up­beat, hope­ful mood of the day. This is a pa­rade about vis­i­bil­ity, com­mu­nity and bring­ing peo­ple to­gether: gay, straight and the fifty shades of gay in be­tween.

Tourist num­bers were on par with last year; the city awash in mus­cled men sport­ing de­signer short shorts and pro­tein pow­der-powered grins. The city’s gyms were in­stan­ta­neously bulging at the seams, the main Dizen­goff shop­ping cen­tre changed its evening lights to rain­bow colours and the gay bars and clubs were heav­ing. Lo­cal gay on­line chat site, Atraf, was do­ing brisk busi­ness, too.

Even the La De­mence gay cruise through the Mediter­ranean made sure to stop in the city for a day and night to give pas­sen­gers a change to taste the tan­ta­liz­ing treats of Tel Aviv. Oddly, ev­ery­one had to be back on board be­fore the beach party ended. Cruise or­gan­is­ers – check your cal­en­dars prop­erly next year!

Be­cause of the grow­ing in­flux to Tel Aviv, and thereby greater Is­rael, of gay tourists, a new busi­ness ven­ture, Fab­u­lous Is­rael – Bou­tique Gay Travel, was started at the end of 2012. It now sends bus­loads of tight T-shirtwear­ing vis­i­tors to such un­miss­able and holy places as Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. Gay >>

>> day cruises along the coast of TLV (as Tel Aviv is known to lo­cals) on cata­ma­rans were also or­gan­ised dur­ing this year’s week-long Pride, and they were fully booked. This is a new gay busi­ness that is def­i­nitely go­ing places, as long as the pol­i­tics of Is­rael play along.

That’s not to say ev­ery­one was as wel­com­ing. Cus­toms of­fi­cials at the Ben Gu­rion Air­port in Tel Aviv did a ma­jor swoop two days prior to the Pride pa­rade net­ting around 20 tourists at­tempt­ing to smug­gle il­le­gal sub­stances into the coun­try. Let this be a cau­tion to ev­ery­one who trav­els abroad for a Gay Pride event in any coun­try – it’s sim­ply not worth the risk.

In Jerusalem, gay tourists also have to be aware that this is a city with re­li­gious fun­da­men­tal­ists of the Mus­lim, Jewish and Chris­tian faiths and to be al­ways on guard. Dress code is shorts that cover the knees too, out of re­spect, and shoul­ders cov­ered in holy sites. Our tour group en­coun­tered no prob­lems the day we vis­ited the holy city, but we had an amus­ing ex­change with a re­li­gious shop­keeper just next to the hal­lowed Wail­ing, or Western, Wall.

Shop­keeper: You visit Tel Aviv? Gay Tourist: Yes. Shop­keeper: You do sex in Tel Aviv? Gay Tourist: Er, yes. Shop­keeper: You do sex with me? Gay Tourist: No, I’m here with my boyfriend. Shop­keeper: In your group are sin­gles who have sex with me? Gay Tourist: I don’t re­ally know them that well. Shop­keeper: Ask them to have sex with me, then I give you dis­count in my shop!

While re­li­gious sites are a big draw (along with Yad Vashem, the Holo­caust His­tory Mu­seum in Jerusalem), ar­guably an even big­ger draw for the pink dol­lar are the nu­mer­ous big dance par­ties held dur­ing the Tel Aviv Pride cel­e­bra­tions. Lo­cal lad Eliad Co­hen (who con­fessed in an in­ter­view re­cently he had “entreprene­urial thoughts while at the gym”) was the smart cookie be­hind the Papa party. He had ma­jor com­pe­ti­tion though from the lo­cal Beef Bar which put on its own Tel A-Beef events in­clud­ing one party fea­tur­ing live sex shows from Is­raeli porn star Jonathan Agassi. Lo­cal DJ le­gend Of­fer Nis­sim spun his beloved trance dance at a cou­ple of For­ever Tel Aviv par­ties, in­clud­ing the clos­ing T-dance party at the Hao­man 17 club. In­side it was sar­dine time as ev­ery twink and his gal pal swished their hair to Of­fer’s set, while out­side the mus­cle boys stripped off their shirts in the dap­pled sun­shine of the big out­door area.

Is­raelis know how to party hard and they cer­tainly know how to be di­rect, too. “We fuck now!” is of­ten their idea of fore­play, so just be aware when vis­it­ing that there is very much a ‘live for now’ men­tal­ity here that is all-per­va­sive. In a coun­try with as volatile a po­lit­i­cal cli­mate as Is­rael, that’s un­der­stand­able.

Yes, the Pride par­ties were amaz­ing. The beach scene was a cav­al­cade of hot guys in skimpy swimwear (es­pe­cially at the un­of­fi­cial gay beach in front of the Hil­ton Ho­tel) and the over­all at­mos­phere was of pure unadul­ter­ated he­do­nism. Yet there is still one lin­ger­ing image from my week’s stay in Tel Aviv that in some ways de­fines what Tel Aviv is all about. Walk­ing at 6:30am to catch our early morn­ing bus tour to the Dead Sea (you need to get to the desert early be­fore you start to bake) we strolled past Bene­dicts, the fa­mous all-day break­fast chain. Sit­ting out­side, hunched deep in con­ver­sa­tion af­ter shar­ing an Is­raeli break­fast, were Euro­vi­sion diva Dana In­ter­na­tional and re­cently re­tired porn su­per­star Fran­cois Sa­gat. You can’t get any gayer, or any more Tel Aviv Pride, than that. See you next year – mazel­tov!

We fuck now! is of­ten the Is­raeli idea of fore­play, so just be aware when vis­it­ing that there is very much a live-for -now men­tal­ity here that is all per­va­sive.

travel tourism takes off in Is­rael.

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