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The rainbow flags hanging in front of Tel Aviv’s bars and restaurants are faded by the time because they remain well extended all year round and visible in daylight. “Anywhere in Tel Aviv isfriendly, it’s almost an act of homophobia not raising the rainbow flag”, says Sergei Nederga, ukrainian who lives in the city and works for the Ministry of Tourism of Israel. And in fact, there are more rainbow flags around Tel Aviv than in capitals like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
In western ethnocentric eyes, it may seem contradictory that Israel, regarded as a conservative, is moving forward on LGBTQIA+ issues. Perhaps it is not “contradictory” the ideal definition; who knows “ambiguous”, where LGBTs and Orthodox religious that do not live from friction and confrontation with each other coexist. Of Jewish majority, it is to be desired that society has advanced with some principles, such as the Laws of Lashon Hará, of the Torah (“It is forbidden to speak negatively about another person, even if it is true), with each living his own life and purpose.
Since 1988, Israel‘s parliament has abolished the penal code against homosexuality, although never applied, and is progressively advancing with laws and equal rights. “It is a force that can not stop”, celebrates the openly gay parliamentarian Yorai Lahav-Hertzano (33).
“The penal code against homosexuality was a remnant of the British mandate” , reads a Wikipedia file. “When Israel declared independence in 1948, the state had inherited the British legal system, where the Penal Code considered same-sex sexual relations a crime. But as early as 1950, State’s Attorney Dr. Haim Cohen ordered the courts not to investigate or prosecute gay people”, points out a document made available by the Embassy of Israel in Brazil.
The achievements were continuous: already in 1992, the Equality and Employment Opportunity Act against discrimination for sexual orientation in the workplace was implemented in Israel. In 1993, in addition to the first Tel Aviv Pride Parade, the Israeli army also banned discrimination against Soldiers and Officers LGBTs.
“The LGBTQ+ community still faces obstacles, but we have had many significant achievements here in Israel. Conversion therapy has been completely banned, gay men can now donate blood and surrogacy for homoaffective couples has also been legalized. In 2022 there was tremendous support for the LGBTQ+ community,” completes Ron Huldai, mayor of Tel Aviv – Yafo.
“Gay oasis” or “gay Mecca” of the Middle East, both terms are appropriate antonomasia for Tel Aviv, one of the only destinations in the region where there is an LGBTQIA+ scene existing as to the molds of the West. And it is in mid- May that Tel Aviv’s LGBTQIA+ Pride program officially begins – and the Ministry of Tourism of Israel goes out of their way to bring LGBTs tourists from around the world to honor a number of events, among them themed afternoons on the beaches, women-only raves, parties for gays in the golden age and a wide schedule in the city’s nightclubs and bars. This year, celebrities such as Bianca Del Rio and Chelseaboy participated in the pre-parade events.
“And it’s not just the climate of Tel Aviv that’s hot” , it was talked about a cocktail party for journalists on the terrace of the Brown Brut, the Israeli Pride‘s official partner hotel. June is considered one of the best months to visit the city, having the weather, few clouds, average temperature of 29º and the sea perfect for bathing, with approximately 25 degrees.
Tel Aviv LGBTQIA+ Pride Parade
Under the theme “Back to Pride”, last June 10, about 170,000 people participated in the LGBTQIA+ Parade in Tel Aviv, which this year had a new itinerary. With concentration around 10am near Sportek, in the North Zone of the city, a stage featured local artists and brought authorities from the country with pro-diversity speeches. “Here, there are many gays in important positions. In fact, openly gay, because there are those who have not yet come out of the closet”, says Sergei Nederga.
On the lawn, about ten tents sold themed souvenirs and distributed information about LGBTs organizations. A tent was dedicated to selling burgers and non-alcoholic beverages, without lines. Unlike street events in Brazil, street vendors are not allowed, so it is necessary to bring plenty of water, something edible and a sunscreen to use every two hours. Bonus for light clothing, caps and fans.
At noon, after the performance of singer Stephane Legar, the trios were already on Rokach Boulevard to follow the path to the Ganei Yehoshua Park, a path of approximately 40 minutes walking. The trucks used as trios are not as high as those used in the São Paulo Parade, allowing a greater visualization and interaction of artists and gogo-boys with the audience. Most of the songs played during the itinerary are known: Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Shakira, for example. Among the wanderers, many tourists and sympathizers with a genuine happiness; I explain: even though it was allowed to drink alcohol on the streets of Israel, no one was seen “artificially cheerful” by the consumption of beer or distillates.
Even though it’s the middle east’s most anticipated LGBTQIA+ event, it’s pretty quiet to be in the crowd without a typical pushing and shoving of popular events. It is also safe to carry mobile phones and wallet without having to fear for possible thefts. To participate in the march, everyone needs to go through a search and, every 20 meters of the route, young military remained on alert to avoid any kind of threat to the public.
Arriving at Ganei Yehoshua Park, two stages were set up to host the event’s main musical attractions, such as the Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, Eurovision semifinalist Michael Ben David and local DJs. And, yes, at this end point there were about five stalls selling drinks, between beer and distillates, accepting credit cards.
Relationship apps work perfectly just as we think, but don’t feel intimidated to make new old-fashioned friendships during the event. The people of the city are receptive and like to talk. And decorate some Tel Aviv LGBTs slang:
Lard (or Liard) = handsome guy
Yachti = sista (figuratively)
Leharim / Tarimi = to party
Wedge = face
Pa-tuch = a way to say “bye”
The next edition of the Tel Aviv Parade has already given scheduled will take place on Friday June 9, 2023.
Tel Aviv, a party apart
When the official LGBTQIA+ Parade events begin in May, Tel Aviv already meets its pre-summer climate and extensive schedule. There is no overcrowding, queues or waiting; it’s all always immediate, leisure is urgent and the LGBT+ tourist is well treated. “Everyone is in Tel Aviv for some different reason, but everyone is always taking pleasure in being here” – so Sergei Nederga introduces the city of Israel.
With a Mediterranean Sea coastline, the city, which adorns itself with rainbow flags by the main avenues, lives up to its etymology: “aviv” is “spring” in Hebrew, which symbolizes renewal, and “tel” is an archaeological site that reveals layers of a civilization built on top of another. “And here in Jaffa, we have one of the first ports in the world, where many people have landed in these thousands of years to try to rebuild their lives. I came here myself to rebuild my life”, says Nederga.
Jaffa, which is now known as a neighborhood south of Tel Aviv, was an ancient port city over 3000 years old that is said to have been founded by Japheth, son of Noah. Currently, the “historic center” is graced by several galleries and nightlife.
English is spoken in most establishments and the dishes are well served. The gastronomy is varied, Sergei explains that most of the recipes are adaptations of cuisines from other cultures. But tasting pomegranate juice at Carmel Food Market and tasting hummus at a restaurant near Flea Market are experiences that create the best souvenir: the olfactory memory. The aromas of the location are a tourism on their own.
Another hotspot known for LGBT tourists in Tel Aviv is the beach at the Hilton Hotel, where the place is decorated with rainbow flags and hosts themed afternoons, with electronic music, for example. It is possible to reach the beach with a scooter, which can be rented easily through an app.
Tel Aviv also stands out in architecture with more than 4000 buildings built in the Bauhaus style, as many followers of the former school, persecuted and closed by the Nazi party, moved to the city. There is even The Bauhaus Foundation to be visited for free, near Meir Park. Meir Park was the first informal meeting place for LGBTQIA+ in Israel, and a center for the LGBTQ+ community and a memorial dedicated to the LGBT victims of the Holocaust are currently being built there. The center is expected to open later this year.
Just over an hour away is the city of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. The possibilities are endless; in the country, there is everything: from snow to desert, from SPA to a good night out. Israel’s stories are many and destiny invites you to make your own.
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