Gay Pride in Israel + Other adventures

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June 16th 2013
Published: June 16th 2013
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When my GBF (Gay Best Friend) Emanuel said flippantly that we should go to his homeland of Israel, I don’t think he quite thought that I was being serious when I excitedly said yes. Nevertheless, he had made the offer, albeit an offhand one and I had accepted. I would never turn down a guided tour of a country that I had previously put on the ‘too dangerous’ list. We booked the flights before he could back out. For an added bonus after we booked the flights we realised that the Gay Pride week was on for the last weekend that we were there.

I’m going to mix it up a bit and start this story from the end. My last weekend in Israel was fabulous. Actually no it was Fabulous. It deserves a capital letter. The three days we spent in Tel Aviv had a rainbow tint to them. We spent three days on the beach and partying with Tel Aviv’s campest. I do have to say though it was quite unnerving to be in a city full of men who are prettier, better dressed and dance better than me. Not to mention their asses are way tighter.

We went to a parade which was a walking party with floats and music, and ended in an explosion of a party on the beach. From above the beach you couldn’t even make out the sand, there were about 30,000 people there. There were men dressed as woman, woman dressed in rainbow beachwear and men and woman dressed in almost nothing at all. Emanuel didn’t quite know what to do with himself. After being in London where the gay men are more subtle and hipster to Tel Aviv where anything and everything goes. The men here were fabulous. Emanuel was shotgunning men all over the place and willing them to ‘sit on his face’, which I stupidly told him that I didn’t understand what he would get out of that. When he went into detail, I realised I should have kept my mouth shut.

Compared to the rest of the week, Tel Aviv was a perfect way to end a relaxing holiday with a bang. We had spent the rest of the week exploring Israel at a leisurely pace. We had arrived on a Friday evening during the preparation for the Sabbath (on Saturday) which is their day of relaxation. Everything is shut on a Saturday. Everything. There isn’t even any public transport. But on a Friday night everyone sits down for a gigantic meal, so at the Kibbutz we stayed at Emanuel’s mum had prepared a meal of monstrous proportions for us. Hand-made hummus, grilled peppers, all sorts of different dips and bread for a starter, vegetables and chicken for the main, finishing with the most delectable alcoholic chocolate mousse I have ever tasted. I went to bed absolutely stuffed.

The majority of our time was spent in Emanuel’s family’s kibbutz near Tel Aviv. Bungalows were scattered across fields and surrounded by greenery. The way of life there is different from any that I’ve experienced. The community is a communist one, where everyone does different jobs in the Kibbutz for the same gain. They export milk and other products and then share profits in the community. His family was super nice and made my stay in Israel so much more personal and interesting. His dad worked on the dairy farm, which produced about 9,000 litres of milk a day and he happily showed me the all the cows and let me milk the calves. He also gave me a history on Israel and Judaism, which was actually incredibly interesting and completely changed my view on Israel. When all my friends and family found out I was going to a ‘war torn’ country they warned me about missiles and bombs and terrorist etc. But the part of Israel that I was in was peaceful and the only war going on right now is far away from where we were. Israel is also so beautiful and has some real hidden treasures

We spent a week traipsing around Israel, using a mixture of public buses and our thumbs. Well in saying that, here instead of sticking your thumb out you need to point your index finger out. My thumb still worked though, probably because I looked adorably ignorant. I must have misleadingly looked like an easy target though, as on several occasions men eagerly pulled over to pick me up and then as soon as Emanuel appeared with his giant beard and intimidating bull ring piercing, they quickly did an about face and zoomed off.

We ended up hitching to the Dead Sea for our first trip from the Kibbutz. It was really weird driving down to the sea (which is actually a lake), as it’s below sea level – the lowest elevation on land in the world. The Dead Sea was unreal. To start with it was about 40 degrees Celsius but it was so dry that it felt cooler. The water felt like warm oil, which was unnerving at first, but I got used to it. All I could do was float. We were so buoyant. After a few hours we got out and my skin felt so incredible, all I could do was stroke myself. We were going to camp on the beach afterwards but Emanuel was too much of a girl and wanted to head to Jerusalem that night so we got on a bus to Jerusalem to find a hostel there instead.

We found a cheap hostel in the Muslim quarter which was 50 shekels a night (about 10 pounds) and it had so much character. Oriental rugs hung on the ceilings and every corner had tucked away corridors. We crashed early and awoke early to explore the city. I had been warned about modesty here, as it was extremely religious. I couldn’t go as far as the orthodox Jewish with their full black suits and hats, but I thought my knee length shorts and t-shirt were modest enough. Apparently there were still a few areas that I could go to where I would be stoned and spat on though. Charming.

We nevertheless explored the markets, marvelling at all the different food and trinkets. We visited the western wall where people prayed. Here I was considered underdressed and was made to wear not one, but two thin blue cloths to cover my skin. I did so without arguing, but looked ridiculous. We also went to a coffee shop to meet Emanuel’s friend and spent a great deal of time in the air con which was bliss compared to the 30+ degrees outside. We caught the bus back to the Kibbutz after that, we were already tuckered out and only 2 days in!

Another trip we took was up north to Tiberius and the Sea of Galilee. It was really beautiful. The weather was quite windy, so the waves were crashing on the sand and it felt like a real beach despite being a lake, again. This country was very misleading with its naming of lakes. We camped on the beach which was wonderful. We just lazed around while we were there, swimming in the lake and chilling in the tent. I went for a walk along the lakeside and I was approached by a young man who started asking me how I liked Israel and if I would like to come have some fun with him and his uncle. His uncle was about 60, greying, and stood by his tent waving keenly. I politely declined and hurried back to Emanuel. Never have I been so glad to have a local with me. We hitchhiked back to the kibbutz early the next morning and made it home in record time – it actually was quicker than the bus.

The main highlight of my trip was that I survived 8 days in Middle Eastern heat, with the baking sun and did not get a millimetre of sunburn. For me that’s a miracle!


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