Tel Aviv named world’s best gay travel destination

The Jaffa section of Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is a great gay travel destination and earlier this month, American Airlines and GayCities.com agreed voting it the world’s best gay travel destination.

The Israeli city received 43 percent of the vote. New York City came in second with 14 percent, Toronto 7 percent, Sao Paulo 6 percent, Madrid and London 5 percent each and New Orleans and Mexico City 4 per cent each.

No one voted for San Francisco, Amsterdam or Berlin?

Well, Tel Aviv is a very gay-friendly place. The city is backing their win with a big push to promote LGBT tourism called Tel Aviv Gay Vibe. And, according to the newspaper HaAretz, the Tel Aviv Pride Parade receives city funding, as does the city’s LGBT center.

While the country doesn’t have same-sex marriage, they don’t have Reform marriage or secular marriage either. So if you aren’t Orthodox, you leave the country to get married and Israel recognizes your wedding. That’s been going on since a gay member of the Knesset married his husband in Canada and came back and sued and won.

And “don’t ask, don’t tell?” Israel thought it was as dumb as we did but they did away with deferments while we were first implementing the policy. The result? Some of the hottest gay men and women in the world … and they know how to use an Uzi.

—  David Taffet

Tel Aviv shooting victim will not be deported after calls from LGBT groups

Nir Katz

Congregation Beth El Binah in Dallas joined other LGBT Jewish groups around the United States Wednesday, Feb. 9, in calling on Israel to allow Thomas Schmidt to stay in that country. They held a phone conference organized by Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York on Feb. 8.

According to the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv today, Schmidt will be allowed to stay in the country.

Schmidt is from Germany and has lived in Israel since 2004. His partner was Nir Katz who was murdered at the Tel Aviv LGBT Center on Aug. 1, 2009.

Schmidt was one of 11 injured in the attack. Katz’ parents helped Schmidt recuperate and they consider him a part of their family. He has no contact with his own family in Germany.

He was in the process of applying for permanent partnership status when Katz was killed. His residency visa had expired.

After the shooting at the LGBT Center, Congregation Beth El Binah planned a vigil with Youth First Texas and Resource Center Dallas, which was the first of many held around the world over the next few days. A rally in Tel Aviv attracted 100,000 people supporting the victims of the shooting and the LGBT community.

When Schmidt’s visa expired, Israel first denied his request to stay in the country.

Nitzan Horowitz, currently the only openly gay member of the Knesset, called on Israel to allow Schmidt to stay in the country.

Yonatan Gher, director of Jerusalem Open House, that city’s LGBT center, said that in 2009, one person committed a hate crime against the LGBT community but “today the country is committing a hate crime.”

“We call on Israel to allow the victim of the brutal attack to remain in the country,” Diane Litke, president of Congregation Beth El Binah, said yesterday.

Today, Israel changed its position and will allow Schmidt to stay in the country.

Israel recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other countries. Most opposite-sex couples do not get married in the country. Since only Orthodox rabbis are allowed to perform weddings in Israel, and most Israelis are not Orthodox, they marry elsewhere and their marriages are recognized.

—  David Taffet