Steve V explores the delights of what is becoming one of the world’s most popular Pride destinations, Tel Aviv…plus Jerusalem & The Dead Sea.
June 8th 2012 saw over 100,000 gay people take to the streets of Tel Aviv in Israel. The only country in the Middle East that respects and allows gay people to live their lives in safety and without fear of persecution, the emphasis being on a true co-existence between gay Jews and Arabs partying into the night and the early hours.
The fun and festivities started at 10am at Meir Park where the Gay Information centre can be found. The air was soon filled with rainbow colored flags as the procession of floats and organized groups of marchers moved through the route, this year’s message of ‘shaveh’ (‘being gay is worthwhile and we are equal’) was truly and in some cases emotionally sent out.
Tel Aviv’s gay scene is a vibrant one with numerous bars and clubs catering for all tastes. The scene is spread out over the city and very easy to navigate with taxis being a good way to get about. Tip here is to make sure the driver puts the meter on as the variants on fares over similar distances was noticeable!
The gay beaches, Hilton and Gordon are excellent, very clean with good on-site amenities. Visit www.gaytlvguide.com for all bar and club info, maps and suggested accommodation and shopping including the city’s sex shops. Evita Bar (31 Yavne Street) was a good spot to start from for a great night out. Be prepared for the fact that smoking is still allowed inside venues!
Tel Aviv was voted the winner of the 2011 best gay cities award and can be encapsulated as the gay capital of the Middle East with an exotic and welcoming feel to it embracing a Mediterranean c’est la vie attitude. Both the Flea and Carmel markets should be visited as should Jaffa, the old city, as prime examples of what Tel Aviv is now all about, touching your heart and giving you lasting memories.
When visiting Israel and having Tel Aviv as your base, excursions to the Dead Sea and Jerusalem are a must, with both places being about an hour away by bus or car. On this trip we went to the Dead Sea as part of a planned gay bus trip, an excellent way to get to the resort and for only 230 NIS (£38) that includes a very fine lunch.
It was a great way to reach the lowest point on this planet, 400 feet below sea level! After wallowing in the mud and experiencing the natural buoyancy, the feeling after was one of great relaxation and our skin felt pretty good, too! Visit www.atraf.co.il and www.gaypartix.com for further info.
Don’t forget to take a good sun protector, at least a SPF 30, and I would also suggest taking a hat even if you have a good tan already as the risk of burning is high. Fresh water showers are available on site.
To see Jerusalem and the majesty of the walled old city should be on most people’s bucket list. Of course it would be difficult to disassociate your self from the religious significance of going to this city but religious beliefs set aside, the pure history of the location and that rather cliché sense of going back in time is an emotion that should be experienced.
The traditional open top bus is an ideal way to get a fantastic panoramic view of Jerusalem. The cost is about £10 and takes about 2 hours (www.city-tour.co.il and www.egged.co.il). We got off the bus at the Lions Gate as this was the closest drop point for the Dome on the Rock and the Western (‘wailing’) Wall. The bus is in operation every day, from Sunday to Friday, and departs from the central bus station on 227 Yafo Street and is well sign posted.
We travelled to Tel Aviv on a scheduled El al flight from Heathrow, with a journey time of approximately five hours. Do give yourself plenty of time for the checking in process on departure as the airline is on a constant security alert and the checkpoints are stringent both at Heathrow and at Ben Gurion/Tel Aviv airport. For an all year round destination, Tel Aviv has it all and should be considered for your next break, be it a weekend or longer.
* (to life)