Israel has come a long way since the 1980s, when laws regarding homosexual activity were removed from the books. A decision by the government to award pensions of deceased military officers to their surviving partners, regardless of sex or of marital status, was a landmark in changing attitudes. However, an open gay scene has only really emerged in trendy Tel Aviv, which Out has called the "most gay-friendly city in the Middle East" (this may seem faint praise, but Tel Aviv is mellow by most world standards). A score of bars, cafes, and clubs offer a constantly changing calendar of theme nights and parties. For the past several years, Tel Aviv, as well as more conservative, traditional Jerusalem, has hosted official gay pride parades. The Jerusalem parades, however, have been marked by violence and (in a rare display of unity) condemnation by leading Muslim, Christian, and Jewish religious authorities. Eilat, somewhat like Tel Aviv, has developed a general attitude of tolerance; mild-mannered Haifa stands somewhere between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Resource organizations include the Association for GLBT in Israel, 28 Nachmani St., Tel Aviv (tel. 03/620-5590; email@example.com); CLAF (Community of Feminist Lesbians in Israel; tel. 054/531-9855); and the Political Council for GLBT Rights in Israel (tel. 03/613-2418).
Support and Crisis Lines: The White Line for emotional counseling (tel. 03/732-5560) is open daily from 7:30 to 11:30pm; Someone Listens (tel. 03/516-7236) is the info and counseling line for the Association for GLBT; and Gay-friendly Psychologists and Therapists is at tel. 03/516-7235.
Minerva, 98 Allenby St., Tel Aviv (tel. 03/560-3801), is a relatively venerable and centrally located bar that was once a lesbian meeting point, but now has a gay section and is pan-sexually friendly and savvy. It's open daily from 10pm until very late.
In Jerusalem, things are quieter but opening up. There is a very active place called Open House at 2 Ha Soreg St., 2nd floor (tel. 02/625-3191); Ha Soreg Street is 2 blocks east of Zion Square off Jaffa Road.
Note that in the Palestinian/Arabic communities throughout Israel, and in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Jordan, and Egypt, any kind of openly gay or lesbian behavior is completely forbidden both by custom and by law. Extreme caution and the lowest possible profile are advised. Similar discretion must be observed in the Jewish ultrareligious and Hassidic neighborhoods of Jerusalem north of Jaffa Road (such as Mea Shearim); in the Old City of Jerusalem; in Safed, which has a largely religious population; and in small, less-touristed Israeli towns where the character of the population may not be clear.
For more gay and lesbian travel resources, visit www.frommers.com.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.