TEL AVIV – Israel’s Ministry of Tourism says that it plans to invest NIS 11 million ($2.9 million) to promote the nation as a tourist attraction for homosexuals.
While the annual Tel Aviv homosexual pride parade is one of the largest in Israel, attracting an estimated 100,000 participants, the campaign will broaden in a push for homosexual tourism all year round.
“We’re building a plan for a long-term strategy,” Israel’s Tourism Minister Yariv Levin told reporters. “Different organizations that we work with have marked the LGBT community as one that has significant potential for growth, and I certainly want to break into larger numbers than we have today.”
The Tel Aviv Municipality and Israel’s Ministry of Tourism had tapped “drag queen” Arie Oshri earlier this year to represent Israel at Germany’s tourism trade fair.
“I’m really proud of the choice and am happy that this is finally happening. I am full of respect for the people working behind the scenes, but when it comes to marketing, they need a colorful and interesting visual character,” Oshri told Ynet News.
“Tel Aviv has a lot to offer the gay crowd, and they are beginning to understand this in Israel,” he said. “I think that Israel is in a very good place, especially for the Middle East, as the only state in which it’s legal to be gay. The Germans really like the political thing but that’s really not my interest. I’m coming to talk about Tel Aviv, the pride parade, and that’s it.”
As previously reported, in February, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his support for the Knesset’s designation of an “LGBT Rights Day.” The Knesset is the legislative body in Israel similar to the American Congress.
“I came here in the middle of my schedule, which was no less busy, to say one sentence to the members of the LGBT community: ‘Every man was created in the image of God.’ That is the idea brought by our nation to mankind thousands of years ago, and it is the principle that must guide our national lives today,” Netanyahu stated.
Homosexuality was legalized in Israel in 1988, and homosexual adoption was permitted following a 2008 court ruling. The Tel Aviv pride parade has been held each June since 1998, and some characterize the city as “the gay capital of the Middle East.”
In 2009, a pair of lesbians filed suit against Yad Hashmona, a Messianic Jewish kibbutz near Jerusalem, for declining to host a “marriage” celebration at the moshav. In 2012, the Jerusalem Magistrate Court ruled against Yad Hashmona, rejecting the hotel owner’s arguments that they should have the right to practice their religion.
The case was then appealed, but in June 2014, Judge Moshe Yoad Cohen upheld the ruling and agreed that Yad Hashmona was guilty of violating Israeli law. As a result of the rulings, the owners of the hotel closed the wedding hall due to fear of further lawsuits.
“I feel sad that people are getting so far from God and celebrating the victory of sin,” manager Tsuriel Bar-David told reporters. “I feel shame that this behavior is now officially becoming ‘normal’ and accepted. I feel that we are getting closer and closer to the days when being a follower of Jesus—Yeshua–will not be accepted anymore, and that those who would like to stay faithful will have no choice but to be set apart from the ‘normal’ society.”