The Jaffa section of Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is a great gay travel destination and earlier this month, American Airlines and 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.

In the late ’90s, I was in Tel Aviv for their first Pride celebration. It was the hottest Pride I’ve ever attended — we’re talking sex-on-the-dance-floor hot.

The beach is one of my favorite in the world. The shopping — Jews invented shopping (the oldest mall in the world still in operation is in Jerusalem) and gays turned it into an art — Dizengoff Center, Carmel Market, the old city of Jaffa. While Tel Aviv is just 100 years old, Jaffa is one of the oldest settlements in the world.

Bars? For years, gay bars didn’t last in Israel — they always said Jews just don’t drink. But Evita has been around now for years. Beit Ha’shoeva (House of Joy) is currently the most popular lesbian bar (according to Tel Aviv Gay Vibe). But gay coffeehouses around the city have always been the place to meet. (And apparently Jews decided to start drinking because there are a couple of dozen listed, although many are mixed or are only gay or lesbian one night a week).

In Israel, English is a fourth language — after the official Hebrew and Arabic and the widely spoken Russian — but most people speak some. Most signs are written in multiple alphabets. Even if you know a little Hebrew, Israel uses the Torah kind — without vowels — so it’s sometimes easier to stick to English as long as you understand the rule that spelling never counts. (I never did find Caesarea because highway signs spell it variations of Qasarea, Caesaria, Kasarea).

While most people go to Israel on pilgrimage (I never did look good in a pilgrim’s hat), LGBT travelers have found that Tel Aviv is a good place to just veg on the beach.

And the gay community in Israel is good at making fun of itself. Here’s a video promoting gay travel to Tel Aviv put out by the Israeli government travel bureau several years ago that’s one of my favorites. (Imagine the U.S. promoting gay travel to our country with hot men on the beach and backing it with our gay tax dollars). See “Israel: No wonder we didn’t make it to the World Cup.”