Tel Avivians are nothing if not a diverse bunch. About one third of the population consists of 20-30-year-olds who have come here from almost every part of the country looking for more and better job opportunities, higher education (Tel Aviv University), better standard of living, richer cultural life, great parties, varied entertainment, and also meeting other single 20-30-year-olds. These youngsters are huddled in the city’s center and the Old North, and pass their free time on the beautiful beaches and in chic cafes, and at night are busy bar hopping till 3am, seeking adventure.
Due to the steep real estate prices in Tel Aviv, most of these single people will be compelled to move to the nearby suburbs or head back to their hometowns when they want to establish a family. That is why only about 60,000 children under 15 out of a population of more than 400,000 live here.
There is also a senior population of “old Tel Avivians” who have been living in the city for decades, and will leave only when their time is up. This senior population lives either in the center, Old North, the Yemenite Quarter or Ha’Tikva neighborhood in the south.
Religion and Demographics
Tel Aviv is by far Israel’s most secular city. Whereas in many parts of the country you’ll find hardly anything to do during the holy day of Shabbat (from Friday evening to Saturday evening), Tel Aviv is constantly open for business. It has even found a way to overcome the absence of public transportation during Shabbat and holidays, with sherut taxis operating until the wee hours every single day, besides the regular taxis roaming the streets.
About 90 percent of Tel Aviv-Yafo’s population is Jewish. Muslim or Christian Arabs make up about 4 percent, and they live almost exclusively in Jaffa. The other Tel Aviv groups are made up mostly of foreign workers from Asia and refugees and migrants workers from Africa. While Tel Aviv also hosts three religions, same as in Jerusalem, there is nothing holy about it, and in spite of the 500 plus synagogues, it’s is more cosmopolitan, international and laidback than religious in any meaningful way.
The various social strata live in different parts of city. Most of the Tel Avivians who live in the center and the Old North are middle-to-upper-class residents, most of whom are of European origin (Ashkenazi Jews). In southern Tel Aviv lives most of the city’s poorer population that consists mainly of recent and not so recent Jewish Russian immigrants and Jews who immigrated from neighboring Arab countries in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
The Gay Community
Tel Aviv is fast becoming an ultimate gay tourist destination. With a thriving local community and a liberal live-and-let-live attitude, Israeli gays are flocking to Tel Aviv on a daily basis, as are gay tourists. Gay couples, both homosexual and lesbian, walk around with their children in strollers or just hand in hand, and no one makes a double-take. Actually, one of Israel’s biggest pop celebrity is a transvestite singer named Dana International.By far the most international city in Israel, Tel Aviv is also home to a large gay community, a kind of San Francisco in the Middle East.*
It’s also good to know that Israel has one of the most liberal GLBT laws in the world, as gay and lesbian marriage in foreign countries is officially recognized, adoption of a bsame sex spouse’s child born from artificial insemination is allowed, and the Tel Aviv municipality is registering GLBT couples for family discount services. And more progress is yet to come. The GLBT community center is located in Independence Park (Gan Ha’atsmaut) on King George Street.
The GLBT scene is sizzling, with gay bars, a gay beach, gay parties and gay everything going strong. The colorful Gay Pride Parade is the GLBT highlight of the year, and one of the best parties the city has to offer, with throngs of people joining in the singing, dancing, drinking, queering and generally having a good time.
Nowhere in Israel is this community more prominent, step out of Tel Aviv, and the GLBT scene is either nonexistent (suburbs) or frowned upon (conservative cities such as Jerusalem). For gays and lesbians coming to the Middle East, Tel Aviv is the place to be, and Out Magazine even named it as the region’s gay capital.
* Lonely Planet’s top 10 cities for 2011