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. The LGBTQ scene is especially robust in Tel Aviv, which Out magazine once dubbed 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. Tel Aviv and the more conservative Jerusalem both host official gay pride parades. Eilat, somewhat like Tel Aviv, has developed a general attitude of tolerance; mild-mannered Haifa stands somewhere between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

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. 02/625-0502); 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.

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.