BEIJING – Masses of gay tourists from Taiwan and Hong Kong are slated to visit Israel soon
thanks to a new Chinese travel guide which highly recommends visiting Tel Aviv - a "paradise for members of the gay and lesbian community," according to the book.
The guide is a joint initiative by Israel's Foreign Ministry mission in Taiwan's capital Taipei and a Taiwanese publishing firm specializing in gay literature. The 144-page guide recently hit book stores in Taiwan and Hong Kong and is devoted entirely to gay and lesbian attractions in Tel Aviv.
It includes enthusiastic recommendations for gay parties, bars, clubs and gay-friendly beaches in the city. It also contains rather bold recommendations for saunas and sex shops alongside a more traditional list of cafés, restaurants and hotels.
Author Rex Shau, one of the most prominent figures in Taipei's gay scene, also incorporated interviews with key figures in the Israeli gay community such as film director Eitan Fox, head of the Hod organization (for religious gays) Rabbi Yosef Ron and Tel Aviv city councilman and chairman of Proud Youth Yaniv Weizman.
An enclosed Chinese-Hebrew phrase book is meant to help tourists "break the ice" with locals. The book is currently being sold in Taiwan and Hong Kong only and has not passed China's fierce censorship mechanisms.
Israel's representative in Taiwan Rafi Gamzu wrote a forward for the book in which he invites gay tourists of all kinds to visit Tel Aviv and "follow in the foot steps of the advanced Israeli gay and lesbian movement."
According to Gamzu, the idea for the travel guide was born following a meeting he arranged in Taipei between Israeli and Taiwanese artists.
One Israeli artist was stunned to discover that a local gay couple was hiding their sexual orientation from their friends and families. "We decided to expose the local community in Taipei to the achievements of the Tel Aviv community in order to promote gay tourism from Taiwan to Israel and at the same time shake up the local conservative establishment and show them other ways," Gamzu said.
Gamzu, who was awarded an honorary decoration from Taiwan's Foreign Ministry for his efforts to bring the two countries together, said that the book has been received very well.
"The Taiwanese know very little about Israel and many who think they do know us are convinced that Israel is a militaristic, religious and conservative state. They were shocked to discover we hold pride parades, have progressive legislation and are very open to gays."