Home » 10 Must Visit Places and Events in Israel for LGBTQ Travelers

10 Must Visit Places and Events in Israel for LGBTQ Travelers

by Bill Strubbe

Israel is flush with antiquities and historical sites, world-class museums, outdoor adventures, endless culinary options, cultural events, and unique boutique hotels.

For such a small country, Israel is flush with antiquities and historical sites, world-class museums, outdoor adventures in the vast Negev Desert or Galilean Hills, endless culinary options, cultural events, and unique boutique hotels for visitors to choose from.

Here is a curated list of ten attractions of special interest to judicious LGBTQ visitors.

THE NORMAN TEL AVIV (Old Tel Aviv)
Arguably the city’s most elegant boutique property, The Norman plays homage to Tel Aviv’s 1920s elegance. There’s thirty individually designed rooms, twenty suites in an adjacent building, and a Penthouse Duplex where you can enjoy a glass of cabernet in a Jacuzzi with a view of the shimmering Mediterranean. (One room and one suite are adapted for guests with mobility issues.) The avant-garde art pieces on display throughout the hotel are all for sale. After a day visiting museums and galleries, chill out in their spa and rooftop infinity pool with a 360-degree view of Tel Aviv’s skyline. On the third floor, Dinings restaurant offers both Japanese-style tapas and contemporary European cuisine. The high-end Alena with a menu of European and Mediterranean cuisine is a great choice, and their buffet breakfast is sumptuous and delicious, as are the waiters in the form-fitting suspender britches. Our favorite breakfast choice is their legendary French toast with bananas encrusted with caramelized sugar, tart raspberry sauce, and crème fraîche on a divinely silky hallah. www.thenorman.com

The Norman Tel Aviv - LGBTQ Israel Travel

The Norman Tel Aviv

ELEMENTO DESIGN (Old Jaffa)
Established in 1998 by designer Yossi Goldberg, Elemento is a unique furniture and homewares atelier tucked away in Old Jaffa that will scintillate your visual and tactile senses. Liberating design from mass-manufactured industry, the brand’s distinctive, one-of-a-kind pieces combine a collection of vibrant, luscious textiles and cutting-edge craftsmanship with a 1960s and ’70s inspired aesthetic to create personalized décor for homes, hotels, and restaurants. While the prices in this designer’s Disneyland wet-dream delight may cause you to gasp, don’t shy away from a visit to their shop, which will leave you agog with ideas and inspiration.

Elemento Design - LGBTQ Israel Travel

Elemento Design

URI BURI RESTAURANT (Akko)
The proprietor, 75-year-old, Uri Yeramias, a larger than life man with a bushy beard spent much of his boyhood in the sea, fishing and diving for shellfish as a salve against bad grades and boredom. Decades later, his iconic waterfront institution in Akko, Uri Buri, is famed for its fresh seafood guaranteed to bewitch your taste buds. Seared shrimp in a lemon, butter and turmeric sauce on black rice noodles; sashimi salmon with a dollop of wasabi sorbet; raw anchovies in olive oil that melts in your mouth; a delicious seabass caldron with coconut milk, apples, and chili. You can order ala carte, but to get the Full Monty, then go for the chef’s “tasting menu” with one sublime course following another–no dish has more than eight ingredients–until you exclaim “basta!” The fun is that you haven’t a clue what will arrive next, and by meal’s end you’ll have experienced a culinary symphony of flavors and textures that you’ll be ruminating over for days to come. Guaranteed to be one of the best meals of your lifetime! www.facebook.com/pages/Uri-Buri/197362996940734

THE EFENDI HOTEL (Akko)
Amongst the warren of stone alleys and markets of the Old City of Akko (a UNESCO World Heritage site) rises the enchanting Efendi Hotel overlooking the Crusader Wall and the Mediterranean Sea. With only twelve rooms, you’ll feel as though you’re an honored guest in an opulent, 19thcentury sultan’s manse, which it indeed once was. Each suite’s 22-feet high ceilings are graced with hand-painted moldings and rosettes, and the rooms feature modern bathrooms and free-standing tubs. Archaeologists, preservationists, and Italian artisans spent eight years restoring this diamond in the rough, including a four century-old hammam, an ancient chapel-cum-dining room, and wine tasting cellar. The elegant, airy, almost minimalist lounges are wonders of glass and light, and the rooftop deck is the perfect place to watch the sun slip into the sea with cocktail in hand. www.efendi-hotel.com

ALQAWS PALESTINIAN QUEER PARTY (Jerusalem)
No chance to hear Beyonce or Drake here…the DJ exclusively spins Lebanese and Egyptian pop hits by Wael Kfoury, Maya Nasri, and Amir Diab, while strobe lights flash to the bass beat, buff studs show off on stage, and drag queens in skirts and heels, some in burka-like veils, strut their stuff. This unique monthly Palestinian Queer Party is organized by alQaws, which promotes sexual and gender diversity throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories. Israeli Jewish queers join hundreds of Palestinians who travel from the Golan Heights, Arab villages in the north, East Jerusalem, and even Ramallah to escape the restraints of their conservative communities to celebrate their mixed identities of being gay and Palestinian. www.alqaws.org/siteEn/index/language/en

TMOL SHILSHOM (Jerusalem)
Since Tmol Shilshom, named for the famous book Only Yesterday by Nobel Prize laureate, S. Y. Agnon, opened 20 years ago, this bookstore and eatery has been an integral part of the Jerusalem literary scene, and a favorite hangout for gays and lesbians, young religious Jews, and tourists alike. Several times a week it hosts famous writers (including the late Amos Oz, David Grossman, and Orly Castel-Bloom) who read aloud and discuss their work. The decor is bohemian chic, the walls
hung with carpets, and there are cushy armchairs and wooden tables. If you get hungry while perusing the books, pause and enjoy the food. The delicious Kerem Focaccia with pears, blue cheese, nuts, honey and thyme is truly amazing, while the Sweet Corn Polenta, a rich dish made with fresh corn, mushroom, truffle puree, thyme, poached egg and a shaving of manchego cheese is divinely delicious. Lonely Planet named their shakshuka one of the 10 best breakfasts in the world! Tmol Shilshom is found in a picturesque alleyway of Nachalat Shiva whose archways and hidden niches make for intriguing wanderings after your dinner. www.tmol-shilshom.co.il

Tmol Shilshom - LGBTQ Israel Travel

Tmol Shilshom

GAASH NUDE BEACH (Ga’ash)
While the very gay Hilton Beach in Tel Aviv is famous, about 25-minutes north is the lesser known Ga’ash, Israel’s unofficial nude beach. As with most gay/nude enclaves, there’s a short hike down a cliff where men of all ages and shapes parade their God-given glories in naked freedom. No need to be shy here: liaisons commence hot and heavy atop the cliffs, amidst the boulders, or unabashed in the breakers. By car or public transport on Route 2 to the gas station at Yakum Intersection. Traverse the foot bridge, walk through the field, turn left and up the hill, then down the cliff to the sea. You won’t miss where the boys are. There’s no shade, so be sure to bring a beach umbrella, hat, sunscreen, and lots of water!

VILLA BROWN (Jerusalem)
One of the Brown boutique collection (two in Jerusalem, six in Tel Aviv), Villa Brown is located smack dab in the center of Jerusalem, a ten minute walk from Damascus Gate and Machane Yehuda street market. History exudes from the historic, stone mansion built in 1890 by Russian- born Dr. Isaac D’Arbela, and it became the social center for Jerusalem’s elite. (The villa makes a brief cameo in the 1960 film Exodus when Sal Mineo’s character flees past to hide in the nearby Ethiopian Church after bombing the King David Hotel.) The black, white, and red interior dazzles with quirky Brown touches and the trademark Brown library book exchange. Two floors were added and there is a Jacuzzi and spa on the roof. The villa offers 24 rooms with rain-showers, and the attic suite has a private terrace and Jacuzzi. A leisurely breakfast on their patio is not to be missed, with exquisite salads, rich cheeses, and baked treats, along with your main dish. There’s also free bikes, though riding in Jerusalem could be a risky venture, so you might want to stick to your feet and the efficient public transport. www.brownhotels.com

Lobby Art at Villa Brown - LGBTQ Israel Travel

Lobby Art at Villa Brown

TEL AVIV PRIDE WEEK (Tel Aviv)
Kicking off last year’s pride week, Tel Aviv’s Mayor Ron Huldai, exclaimed to the crowd: “We will continue to break through the walls of hatred and reach a time when all people are equal in Israel…” Despite some setbacks, in recent decades Israel has made huge legislative strides in advancing parity for its LGBTQ citizens, and Tel Aviv, which now ranks as among the most gay-friendly cities in the world, plays host to their 21st Tel Aviv Pride from June 9th to the 15th. Tens of thousands of tourists are expected to swell the streets to over a quarter million revelers for a week of sizzling events. The festivities culminate on the 14th with the parade that winds through old Tel Aviv to Charles Clore Beach, with dancing on the sand and in the surf until dusk. Consider purchasing a TLV19 bracelet that will give you easy and swift entry into the biggest parties without the long queues. www.gaytelavivguide.com

SHPAGAT (Tel Aviv)
Popular throughout the week, Shpagat doubles as a chill restaurant by day and a popular and buzzing bar by night. Located on trendy Nahalat Binyamin Street, the terraced indoor/outdoor seating area spills down onto the sidewalk and is a cool place to escape the summer heat, or get in out of the rain (contrary to popular belief, Israel can be cold and damp in winter). Though it attracts a predominantly mature, gay crowd, straights are welcome, and there’s a special night for lesbians. Shpagat also hosts record release parties, art exhibitions, and DJs playing everything from electronica, pop, hip hop, reggae, and Middle Eastern music. And if you happened to wonder, shpagat means “the splits” in Hebrew, taken from the shape of the bar, or on a lucky evening some hottie showing off his agile moves atop of the bar. Entrance is usually free though they make up for it with pricey drinks. www.facebook.com/shpagatlv


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