The progressive Orient: Gay tourism to Tel Aviv and Israeli ethnicities

Gilly Hartal, Orna Sasson-Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Tel Aviv is becoming a hotspot for gay tourism through the support of municipal and national forces. The city is marketed as a Middle Eastern gay utopia, drawing tourists due to its location, LGBT nightlife, and Oriental flavor. Meanwhile, local Israeli LGBT individuals strive to produce themselves as Western, both performatively and politically. This paper discusses how the Tel Aviv Municipality, the state, commercial actors, and LGBT individuals utilize Israeli ethnicities. We argue that the dissonance between Orientalist images and Westernization processes, which are particularly noticeable in the marketing of gay tourism to Tel Aviv, maintains a twofold construction of Tel Aviv as a Middle Eastern global city, which we term the Progressive Orient. Reinforcing the differentiation from the Middle East and other Arab countries, while embracing Orientalist images and tastes under the guise of authenticity, this particular kind of pinkwashing also differentiates the city as other than the rest of Israel. This in turn creates new nuances of ethnic Israeli gayness illustrated by an emerging gay Mizrahi culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-29
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Politics and Space
Issue number1
Early online date11 Jul 2019
StatePublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.


  • Gay tourism
  • LGBT in Israel
  • LGBT progress
  • Mizrahi/Ashkenazi ethnicity
  • Orientalism
  • pinkwashing


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