Gay Man Runs for Mayor of Tel Aviv, Hopes for Historic First in Middle East

Just yesterday, Towleroad posted about Sheka and Teka, sexually ambiguous puppets who set off a firestorm of excitement when a baby was brought into their lives. Are they gay? Should they "come out" in order to raise awareness for LGBT families? Well, Israelis will not have to second guess one of Tel Aviv's mayoral candidates, Nitzan Horowitz who, if elected, would become the first openly gay mayor in the Middle East.

It is an exciting prospect, but one that is unlikely to happen. Horowitz's bid though, much like the puppets, reveals much about gay life and culture in the socially diverse country of Israel.

Horowitz_NitzanReuters reports:

The left-wing legislator is not predicted to defeat the incumbent, the well-established ex-fighter pilot Ron Huldai, in an October 22 municipal vote.

But the 48-year-old remains upbeat, pointing to an opinion poll his dovish Meretz party commissioned last month that gave Huldai only a five-point lead.

"I'm going to be not only the first gay mayor here in Israel, but the first gay mayor of the entire Middle East. This is very exciting," Horowitz told Reuters.

Horowitz's prominence in Tel Aviv is not altogether surprising. In a region better known for its religious and social conservatism, it is dubbed the "city that never sleeps".

With a population of 410,000, it was also ranked in a poll by last year as a top gay destination.

Huldai, Horowitz's opponent, has done much for the gay population of Tel Aviv. The city hosts an annual pride parade and LGBT film festival, as well as a cultural center accessible to older and younger citizens alike. However, Horowitz hopes that this lofty public position could end some of the lingering homophobia in Tel Aviv and the larger Middle East. 

The task of improving policy toward gays in the Jewish state is "very challenging, because this is a country, a region with a lot of problems concerning the gay community, discrimination, even violence," the candidate said.

Gay marriage – and civil ceremonies in general – that take place in Israel are not recognized by the authorities. Horowitz, who has lived with his partner for more than a decade, wants that to change.

"I hope once I'm elected this will contribute to tolerance and understanding, not just in Israel, but in the entire region," Horowitz said.

Good luck to Horowitz in the coming election! 


  1. MaryM says

    Israel is NOT a good country in which to be LGBT – there are too many religious extremists and racists there.

    Israel is streets ahead of the other countries in the middle east but compared to North America and Europe it is not a good place in which to be LGBT.

    Plus there’s that awkward apartheid regime they are operating in the illegally occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

    It is the new apartheid era South Africa

  2. Knock says

    Pew Research showed tolerance for gays in Israel is a paltry 50% or so, so despite the pinkwashing that goes on this guy doesn’t stand much of a chance.

  3. defender says

    @marym,What does a gay guy running for mayor of Tel Aviv have to do with the West Bank?

    Just say you hate Jews and be done.

    In the ME, not only is Israel the only place that a gay person is eligible for elected office, it is virtually only place they can live outside of the closet. Israel has its issues, no doubt, but you are better served sticking to facts you know.

    As far as comparing Israel to NA and Europe, again, you are off base and showing your lack of understanding. Israel has always allowed and even welcomed gays to serve in the military while we, in the US, just recently enabled gays to serve openly.

  4. defender says

    @Knock- The latest Pew poll says 60% of Americans have favorable opinions of gays. Not exactly the huge chasm you make it out to be. And if you’ve ever been to TA, you’d also know it is one of the most liberal cities ANYWHERE. Jerusalem’s religious population skews the poll. I would guess the numbers in TA are much closer to 60% or higher.

  5. myackie says

    @ Defender….I can’t believe you don’t see how morally superior Marym & Knock are (I think they may even be the same person)…people like them sure love pointing out Israel’s alleged faults…and no other country in the world.

  6. Victor says

    I’m surprised the report omitted the fact that Horowitz had served in the Knesset. Would a journalist make such a mistake about a mayoral candidate who served in the US Congress?

  7. Kristen says

    Oh shush Marym you clearly haven’t been to Tel Aviv. Take it from a New Yorker – it’s much much MUCH safer being openly gay in Tel Aviv than it is here in the US including NYC.
    Try googling hate crimes LGBT Israel. In the history of that country there has been ONE hate crime against LGBT people. ONE.
    The truth is that all Israelis go to the military and so they’re forced to live and work with different people throughout their service. That’s why they can’t give two f***s about gay/straight.

    But of course in your crazy mind Israel is the devil so you resort to lies. I feel sorry for you.

  8. Knock says

    @Defender – I’ve never in my life claimed the US is tolerant. 60% is pathetic, but not as bad as 50%. (I live in Canada, where it’s 80% and rising.)