Tel Aviv by far favorite gay travel destination

Thursday, January 12, 2012 |  Ryan Jones

Tel Aviv this week won the distinction as being by far the preferred travel destination by the global homosexual community, according to the gay travel website Gaycities.com.

A survey conducted by the website found that 43 percent of its readers rate Tel Aviv as the number one vacation spot for homosexual travelers. The next highest rated city was New York City with 14 percent of the vote.

"The democratic tradition of Israel [ensures that] the gay community enjoys political freedom as in no other Middle Eastern country," read the article accompanying the poll results.

By comparison with cities outside the Middle East, "rarely a month goes by that Tel Aviv isn't celebrating some musical or cultural event," and "huge dance parties" are a weekly occurrence.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai enthusiastically welcomed the survey results.

"Victory in this competition further highlights the fact that Tel Aviv is a city that respects all people equally, and allows all people to live according to their values and desires," Huldai wrote on his Facebook page. "This is a free city in which everyone can feel proud, and be proud of who they are."

The results of the Gaycities survey and the words of praise in the accompanying article would seem to stand in stark contradiction to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's public expression of concern last month that Israel was slipping into a non-democratic abyss. Or to highlight the fact that Israel itself is a land of stark contradiction.

Media analyst Dr. Aaron Lerner of Independent Media Review and Analysis (IMRA) explained:

"We are a lot less politically correct than Americans in our talk. But we really don't care what people do in their own homes. We really don't care if a senior IDF officer lives with his male partner or that a senior policewoman was raising her children with her female partner. Why? Maybe because we face some very real existential problems."

But Lerner goes on to point out a very valid concern over efforts by Israel's ministries of Foreign Affairs and Tourism, and by the Tel Aviv Municipality to openly promote Israel as an attractive travel destination for homosexuals and beach-goers - the effect it has on religious pilgrimage.

By far the largest percentage of Israel's yearly tourism influx is made up of Christian pilgrims. They are coming to see the Holy Land, a place many hope and believe still holds to a more conservative lifestyle than the decadent ways of their home countries.

But current numbers suggest that the promotion of Israel as a gay travel destination has not hurt pilgrimage figures, so that approach to redefining Israel as a bastion of liberal sensibilities is expected to continue.

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