January 11, 2012, Updated September 11, 2012

With a whopping 43 percent of votes, Tel Aviv has been crowned the world’s Best Gay City in an international contest run by American Airlines. New York was the runner-up with just 14% of votes.

“There’s a feeling of freedom here,” gay activist Roy Shoyer told ISRAEL21c. “Tel Aviv might not have as many entertainment options as other cities around the world but there’s a special atmosphere here. I think the combination of the beach and great weather also gave Tel Aviv an advantage.”

Other cities in the running for the Best Gay City of 2011 title included Toronto, Sao Paulo, Madrid, London, New Orleans and Mexico City.

Shai Doitsh, brand manager of the Tel Aviv Gay Vibe tourism campaign, was thrilled by the win.

“The win is the culmination of six years of work and proof that the Tourism Ministry and the Municipality of Tel Aviv made the right decision to invest in gay tourism,” Doitsh told Ynet. “This is a great start to the new year.”

“Gay culture in Israel is not a subculture,” Gal Uchovsky, a commentator on Israeli culture, told ISRAEl21c a few years back. “Gay culture in Israel is not ‘underground’ or ‘alternative’ the way it is in New York, for instance. Instead, in places in the country where we are integrated, we are fully integrated members of Israeli society.”

Organizers of the contest described Tel Aviv as the “gay capital of the Middle East … exotic and welcoming with a Mediterranean c’est la vie attitude.”

Now Tel Aviv is hoping the win will likely bring an influx of tourists.

“I hope more tourists will come and I can promise they’ll have a good time in Israel and in Tel Aviv,” says Shoyer. “There are so many ways of life in Israel, so many cultures here, and this is what makes this place so beautiful. As an Israeli I’m very proud.”

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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