Tel Aviv reveling in gay tourism boom
By Maayan Lubell
TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Less than an hour away but a world apart from traditional places of pilgrimage in the Holy Land, Israel's free-wheeling city of Tel Aviv has become a Mediterranean hotspot for gay tourism.
"Tel Aviv is hot right now because it's unique," said Adir Steiner, who coordinates gay pride events for the city.
"It's in the Middle East where it's not so easy to be gay and it's like a paradise in an area where you will not obviously find an open city like Tel Aviv," he said.
Leon Avigad, owner of the gay-friendly Brown hotel, said Tel Aviv has become a "gay Mecca" and is enjoying a tremendous tourist boom in recent years.
"Tel Aviv is small enough to be intimate but big enough to absorb hundreds of thousands of tourists every year...we're cosmopolitan, we're very Western, European and American but on the other hand we're very much into the Middle Eastern warmth and welcoming, and this combination attracts," Avigad said.
At The Block club, a blond drag queen twirled and bopped as the vampire-fanged DJ spun his records. Loudspeakers pumped out pop hits and under a mirrorball, the men took to the dancefloor.
"I fell in love with the city," said Iliya Sheirtz, a tourist from Berlin who took part in the midnight festivities "In the summertime, in the wintertime, it doesn't matter, you have the beach here, the sun and a lot of great parties, a lot better than Berlin," Sheirtz said.
This month Tel Aviv won best city on an American Airlines and a GayCities.com contest, sweeping past New York, Berlin and San Francisco with 43 percent of the votes. Russell Lord, travel consultant who specializes in gay tourism, said he has been flooded with requests since. Continued...