Tel Aviv’s last gay bar shuts down

Evita (Pic: Facebook)

Evita (Pic: Facebook)

Despite being known as the Middle-East’s most gay-friendly city, Tel Aviv has lost its last gay venue.

On Saturday, the Evita Dance Bar shut its doors, 12 years after it first opened. Located in the heart of the city, it was Tel Aviv’s only bar specifically catering to the LGBT community.

“We had a wild time here, 12 years. This place has raised generations of people from the community,” Shay Rokach, the 38-year-old co-founder of Evita, told Haaretz.

“For many people, Evita is the first place they went to, the first kiss, the first love and the place that accepted them without being judgmental.

“Lots of parents came here visiting their sons and daughters after they came out of the closet,” Rokach said.

The closure appears to reflect two global trends. One is the growing inclusion of the LGBT community into the mainstream; resulting in LGBT-friendly spaces in which straight and gay people are more comfortable socialising together.

The other is the rise of dating apps. Many gay men are increasingly turning to these services to meet partners, rather than gathering in bars and clubs.

Tel Aviv’s LGBT community is the largest in Israel and is said to consist of 15% of its residents. Boasting an internationally renowned Pride event, the city was named by CNN in 2014 as one of the world’s “10 gay honeymoon hotspots”.

The reality in Israel, however, is that LGBT people are not always welcome and safe and face extreme opposition from religious hardliners.

In July 2015, Yishai Shlissel, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, ran amok through the Jerusalem Pride parade, stabbing seven participants with a 15 cm-long kitchen knife.

One of his victims, 16-year-old Shira Banki, tragically succumbed to her injuries in hospital and died. She had been attending the event to show support for her LGBT friends.

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