Israel’s LGBT community has flourished not only in the public sphere, but also in its own cultural hubs.
Tel Aviv is famous for being home to one of the most vibrant LGBT communities in the world and certainly in the Middle East. Strongly proud and “out,” Tel Aviv’s gay community has become a center for gay culture and tourism, particularly among gays from Europe and the United States who want to experience the Middle East and Mediterranean life in a safe environment. The Tower’s photographer Aviram Valdman went to two of Tel Aviv’s most famous night spots for the gay community, Evita and Oman 17, to capture images of Israel’s gays at their most celebratory and comfortable.
Oman 17 is an international destination for gay men in their 20s and 30s. A regular dance party with rotating locations, it is attended by as many as 1,500 people at a time, and never less than 600 a night. It is particularly famous in Spain, and the company that stages it has held similar events in Brazil. Almost exclusively attended by gay men, it has a classic discotheque environment, featuring go-go dancers and electronic music.
Evita has been a fixture on the gay party scene for more than 10 years, located on Yavne Street a few minutes from Rothschild Avenue, Tel Aviv’s most fashionable thoroughfare. Very well-known abroad, it is a major destination for gay tourism. It is particularly notable for its theme nights, which manager Igal Ranaan says was created out of the desire to simply have “something different” every night. These now encompass everything from Eurovision lip-syncing contests to drag shows featuring the irrepressible Ziona and Tallulah. While it mainly caters to gay men, it has an open atmosphere, and straight Israelis, women, and mixed groups of friends often attend as well.
Valdman’s photographs show the diversity and energy of one of Israel’s most unique communities, one the country particularly values as an expression of Israel’s desire for an inclusive and tolerant society.
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Banner Photo: Aviram Valdman / The Tower