Israel’s gay scene thrives in unexpected places

As acceptance grows, the LGBT community begins to shun the undisputed capital of gay Israel in favor of other towns.

Although Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride was celebrated nearly half a year ago, people are still humming the festival’s official theme song, which was presented by a young (and straight) singer, Omer Adam. The song says “Sahtein al Tel Aviv” – which could be translated as “Good for you, Tel Aviv” – and the gay scene there is indeed flourishing. But while Tel Aviv is Israel’s gay capital, there is a growing gay scene in other cities around the country, hosting more and more parties and events catering to the LGBT community.

“Because there is more openness today to gay pride, there is the feeling that this subject has become a social norm outside Tel Aviv as well,” says Michal Sher, 31, a member of the executive board of Agudah (the national LGBT association in Israel) and who organizes its weekly dance parties and social activities. “As a result, there is a growing demand for activities for the gay community in other [Israeli] cities. People are no longer afraid to go with their agenda, and this fact is expressed in nightlife activities. There are amazing gay communities in Be’er Sheva, Jerusalem and Haifa, and weekly dance parties are now beginning to become a feature in Kiryat Gat,” he notes.

Avishag Tabib, 26, who produces the weekly Monroe multisexual dance parties at Be’er Sheva’s Grace Bar, cites another reason for the increase in the number of gay events in Israel’s outlying regions, and also describes the process that led her to organize weekly dance parties in Be’er Sheva. “We have learned to take responsibility for ourselves outside Tel Aviv,” she says. “I thought that when I turned 18 I would move to the ‘state of Tel Aviv,’ because I am lesbian. But I really love the city I live in, my friends are here and it is important to establish a gay base here.”

“When we began to organize weekly dance parties nearly three years ago, all we wanted was a place where gays could party,” she adds. “There was no gay scene and there were hardly any events for gays here. At first, the parties were on Wednesdays, but since they turned out to be so successful we moved them to Fridays. Now the Resident Bar [in Be’er Sheva], which used to put on a drag show at the Grace Bar, is organizing its own weekly dance parties.”

What do you think created this change?

“First of all, Ben-Gurion University attracts new faces to Be’er Sheva. Second, we have a new, young mayor [Ruvik Danilovich] who is sensitive to the needs of young people. Third, we decided to create this place instead of traveling to Tel Aviv whenever we wanted to go out on the town. Besides, I am active in the LGBT organization and we hold meetings in schools. Today, straight adolescents are getting the message that there is a gay community in Be’er Sheva, and they are cool with that idea.”

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