The afternoon I left New York for Israel, my friend asked me, “Are you really going to wear that low-neck V shirt?” As someone who already knew a bit about social freedom in Israel and especially in Tel Aviv, I answered, “Ummm…of course!”
Unlike in the U.S., gay-identified Israelis are allowed to serve openly in the military, and through a technicality, same-sex marriage is even possible in the country. Gay pride parades are held every year in Tel Aviv, and I really hope to go to it one day to experience what would obviously be an amazing time in this most secular Israeli city.
Being gay (and proud) in Tel Aviv is really something of an afterthought. Many people in the States assume that because Israel is a Middle Eastern country and the Jewish State that it will automatically be anti-LGBT. Walking through the streets of Tel Aviv, all of the time I talked to and interacted with gay Israelis; Sheinkin Street is infamous for its enormously gay-friendly atmosphere (anyone seen “The Bubble?”). Although there are only 5 or 6 gay clubs (Evita and Ashmoret, while not the best ones, were typical for me) in Tel Aviv, most of them are pretty fun. Meeting guys was also a lot easier than it is in the States because Israeli men–of all sexual orientations–are generally a lot more honest and open about things than American guys.
I was also able to meet several gay Palestinians during my time in Israel, who have a particularly precarious and heart wrenching situation. However, being gay in Israel is one of the few things that, besides a clash or two in Jerusalem during attempted gay pride parades, is generally not politicized too much–most likely because there are so many other issues to deal with in daily life.
As a gay person, I would highly recommend any LGBT identified person to study in Tel Aviv–I daresay that you will actually think less about being gay than you would in even London or Paris. In Israel, you are an American, a New Yorker/NYU student, etc. first and foremost, which is a refreshing thought!
– Grant Hunter