In keeping with Tel Aviv’s reputation as the best gay travel destination in the world — with its neighborhood of Gan Hahashmal ranking second on Thrillist’s “Top ten sexiest neighborhoods on Earth” — a major LGBT festival is on the horizon for the “city that never stops.”
The events surrounding Israel’s 16th annual Gay Pride Week in June were so successful, and attended by a whopping 25,000 gay tourists from abroad, that the Tourism Ministry and the Tel Aviv municipality decided not to lose the momentum. They will provide the international LGBT community with the best that Tel Aviv has to offer in the winter, too.
The Nonstop Gay Festival, taking place December 24 through January 7, will include an array of activities, most of which will be in English and free of charge. To make the happening even more attractive, the city’s hotels will offer special packages at reduced rates.
And because of the mild weather, certainly in comparison to that of the United States and Europe during the Christmas and New Year’s season, even the shores of the Mediterranean will be a draw. The Hilton Beach in particular, a popular LGBT spot throughout the year, will be a venue for parties, as will Rothschild Boulevard, well-known both for its nightlife and daytime bustle.
The logo of the festival appropriately includes an icon of a snowman made out of sand, wearing a rainbow bathing suit and holding a flag with the temperature of 20°C (68°F) written on it, appealing to the tourists who want to escape the cold.
Other areas of interest will be the numerous cafés and eateries (increasingly gaining international culinary acclaim); the city’s many LGBT pubs and clubs; museum and gallery exhibitions; plays, concerts, drag shows, a film marathon at the Cinematheque, and performances of various kinds.
“Anything that highlights LGBT life in Israel is welcome,” social activist and prominent community member Avi Soffer tells ISRAEL21c. “And there is no question that Tel Aviv is a gay paradise.”
Soffer, who heads and is involved in programs geared at helping LGBT youth and the less fortunate members of all walks of society, also understands that tourism is crucial for bringing in revenues that are beneficial to Tel Aviv as a whole and to the LGBT community in particular.
“Tourism is PR-worthy and sexy,” he says.
Arthur Slepian, the executive director of the California-based organization A Wider Bridge – whose mission is to inspire lesbian and gay Jews to deepen their Jewish identity through connection with Israel and to strengthen ties with Jewish and Israeli communities through international collaboration – tells ISRAEL21c that he see many positive effects of increasing LGBT tourism to Israel.
“I applaud programs such as Tel Aviv’s winter festival,” he says. “LGBT people around the world hear lots of anti-Israel messages, often from others who have never set foot in the country. It’s important for LGBT people to see Israel for themselves, which is why we run LGBT missions to Israel every year, and the more programs that encourage this, the better.”
Slepian adds, “It’s also great for the LGBT organizations working in Israel to be able to meet with and learn from LGBT people from other countries. And I think gay tourism makes Israel’s hotels, restaurants and shops even more gay-friendly when they see how much business they get from LGBT customers from around the world.”
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