Out Magazine donned Israel “the gay capital of the Middle East,” and the country’s first LGBTQ organization, Aguda, opened its doors back in 1975. It’s one of 11 nations with a foreign chapter of the US-based PFLAG, and though a quasi-theocracy that doesn’t perform same-sex marriages within its borders, nearly 80 percent of the population supports the recognition of same-sex unions undertaken elsewhere. Israel is arguably the most gay-friendly country on the Asian and African continents, and LGBTQ rights in Israel are much better than those found in nearby nations.
LGBTQ rights in Israel have always been ahead of the curve compared to the rest of the region. Lawmakers legalized same-sex relations in 1988, and outlawed sexual orientation discrimination in 1992. In 1994, Israel moved to recognize ‘unregistered cohabitation’, and in doing so, became the first country in Asia (since the Middle East is a transcontinental mass) to recognize same-sex unions. In 2008, officials granted same-sex couples full adoption rights, and LGBTQ people can serve openly in the military.
Trans rights in Israel also lean towards being relatively progressive. Individuals can change their legal gender without reassignment surgery, and are entitled to use public health insurance to pay for gender dysphoria treatments. Granted, a medical board must first give approval, which can sometimes prove trying, but the country’s stance is noteworthy compared to its neighboring nations.
So what’s the current state of gay rights in Israel? Even though religion - specifically Judaism - remains a significant socio-political force in an increasingly right-leaning country, gay and trans rights in Israel are infinitely better than those found in surrounding theocracies and democracies. Not only do non-married same-sex couples enjoy the same childcare tax benefits as their traditionally-partnered counterparts, but every violent crime motivated by sexual orientation is considered a hate crime, which doubles the punishment. According to the latest Gay Travel Index by Spartacus, Israel scored 7 in terms of its overall LGBTQ rights, with factors including antidescrimination legislation and non-hostile locals, putting the country ahead of other nations such as Australia, South Africa, and Italy.
On the downside, since religion serves a structural societal pillar, same-sex marriage isn’t permitted. However, ceremonies performed elsewhere are recognized. For example, if two men or two women plan a destination wedding in Canada, the country will consider them a married couple, eligible for all the attendant benefits, upon return to Israel.
While gay rights in Israel are strong, the situation isn’t perfect. And while “yes” answers the question, the country has a vocal far-right constituency with a history of advocating against the LGBTQ community. Moreover, horrific episodes, including a 2009 youth center massacre and a 2015 pride stabbing, have punctuated the problems that gay, lesbian, and trans people still face in Israel.
So is Israel safe for gay and lesbian travelers? Generally speaking, yes, it is — especially if you stick to certain cities, most notably Tel Aviv. The seaside city is a mashup of Miami Beach and San Francisco, with a heaving nightlife that often tops ‘best on the planet’ lists. Its good time cosmopolitan vibe has long attracted gay men, and as a result, today, Tel Aviv is regarded as one of the top gay destinations in the world.
Tel Aviv is especially happening during Pride week when hundreds of thousands of people take to the beaches and streets to celebrate. Interestingly, there isn’t a single gay area in Tel Aviv. Instead, LGBTQ life revolves around weekly parties (Party Lines), and gay-friendly and gay-owned venues are scattered throughout the city. So is Tel Aviv safe for gay and lesbian travelers? Absolutely!
In most countries, the capital is usually thought to be the most LGBTQ-friendly city, so in the case of Israel, is Jerusalem safe for gay and lesbian travelers? Like Tel Aviv, yes, Jerusalem is generally safe for gay and lesbian travelers. Unlike Tel Aviv, however, Jerusalem is more conservative. Though the city has hosted Pride parades for decades, it’s not as large as the one in Tel Aviv, and a 2015 parade attack has dampened enthusiasm for the event in recent years.
So is Israel safe for gay and lesbian travelers? It is, and the experience is even more enjoyable when you stay at a gay-friendly hotel, vacation rental, or guest house - and that’s where misterb&b comes in. A worldwide LGBTQ travel booking site, misterb&b has hundreds of listings in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and other Israeli cities. Incredible accommodations and life-long friendships are right around the corner, so find the perfect LGBTQ accommodation via misterb&b now, and experience a more welcoming world.