LGBTQ Travel: Israel’s Epic Purim Celebrations

Written by | Travel

purim

Photos by Fabian Koldroff

If you’re an LGBTQ traveler who constantly craves the costumes of Halloween and the street parties of Mardi Gras, Israel hosts a holiday where you’ll feel right at home.

For many in the LGBTQ community, Halloween is the most exciting holiday of the year. We’re a community that values self-expression and prefers not being limited by societal norms, which are two of hallmarks of that celebration. Well, we’ve discovered a reason to get dressed up and party with all the fun of October 31st — but a great deal sooner: Purim.

This year, Israel’s epic Purim celebrations will begin March 20-21 (Wednesday and Thursday) and continue on into the weekend. The celebration finds its religious roots in the story of how a plot against the Jewish people was foiled. This led to a  holiday for feasting – marked by traditions such as exchanging gifts of food and drink, donating to charity, and sharing celebratory meals.

Like so many cherished holidays, Purim has taken on a life of its own, and it’s celebrated by the whole nation of Israel – from religious Jews in Jerusalem to secular Tel Avivans. Purim parties take place across Israel, filling almost every city with its street parties and their carnival atmospheres. More secular pastimes of the holiday include drinking, donning masks and costumes and engaging in general public revelry. So visitors can get all the joys of visiting Israel (great weather, gorgeous landscapes, stunning beaches, modern cities, history everywhere) plus a fabulous nationwide costume party.

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The largest of all these public celebrations is in Kikar Hamedina in Tel Aviv. It’s a day-long rave attended by young and old, families and singles, gay and straight people. And it’s a happening all over the city. It’s a time of year with great weather, allowing partygoers to be inventive with their costumes; you’ll find many unafraid to flash a little flesh.

Although Pride is the highlight of gay life in Israel (and Tel Aviv’s celebration is legendary), Purim provides another opportunity for LGBTQ travelers to see how colorful and welcoming the region’s party capital is. Some might prefer its relaxed fun to Pride in certain ways: It’s a more playful celebration, and also offers an atmosphere that welcomes straight and mixed crowds alike. That said, the celebrations are memorable both in Tel Aviv’s popular gay bars (like Shpagat) and at circuit events thrown by organizers like the POP Ring, who transform everyday warehouses into LGBTQ wonderlands.

ninja turtle men at parade

Save some energy for AFTER-Purim: very popular with gay party people, it usually starts around 6am on Saturday of Purim week.

But even with many LGBTQ-specific places you can play, one Purim reveler we spoke to described Purim in Tel Aviv as “post-gay” – with LGBTQ people welcome to join almost any party. With all the festive and flamboyant costumes, one can picture the difference between gay and straight revelers becoming blurred. And since one of the slogans of Purim can be roughly translated to, “Drink until you don’t know the difference!”, perhaps it’s no wonder that Purim is a time when LGBTQ travelers would feel especially warmly embraced by the city.

Visit goisrael.com to learn more about how you can join Israel’s unforgettable Purim festivities and find other great ways in which Israel is eager to welcome LGBTQ travelers like you.

Last modified: February 25, 2019

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