Can’t get that in Kfar Saba…

Yup. By now thanks to Foreign Ministry and Tourism Ministry PR flacks in Israel, everyone knows about Israel’s vibrant gay scene. Tanned, young, buff Israeli bodies are bandied about, celebrating at Gay Pride parades or performing in xxx-rated videos in an attempt at titillation but also sending a message that Israel is a tolerant and diverse country (while its neighbors, by implication, are less so).

There is of course some substance to this. Legally, Israel may have been a little late to the game, only decriminalizing homosexuality in 1988, but since then it has met and surpassed standards set in many other countries while standing as a unique oasis of tolerance in a region full of institutionalized homophobia. In 1993, the IDF rescinded all regulations discriminating against sexual minorities. By 1997 same-sex partner benefits were extended to both the private and public sectors. The year 2000 saw the recognition of same-sex partners as adoptive parents, and in 2006, gay marriages performed abroad were recognized in Israel.

Tomas Shemesh Tel Aviv Bear Master

Tomas Shemesh Tel Aviv Bear Master

Swell right? But still, the imagery of the gay Israeli man is still one of a young, hairless, hot dude lolling about on a beach or partying to techno music. Apparently however, that’s not quite universally the case in reality. I mean obviously not all gay guys correspond to some glossy airbrushed image. As such, Butt Magazine enlightens us by introducing us to the world of Tel Aviv “Bears.”

What are Bears? Older, hairier, rougher around the edges, less metro-sexual gay guys – often clad in black leather and military style dress. Noam Dvir of Butt Magazine writes:

Around 1 AM the place is already packed with the over-thirty crowd, some of them with leather straps, many with tattoos and well groomed facial hair. At 3 AM you can hardly find a spot in the darkroom located next to the entrance. The chief of this whole parade is Tomas Shemesh, 37, (above) a massive and hunky yet truly charming bear who sees his role not only as a party planner but as an ambassador for the local fetish community.

The rest is a fairly extensive interview with Shemesh that shines a light upon a usually less publicized element of Tel Aviv’s night life and gay community. The article is titled “Israeli Beef” but really it’s Tel Aviv “Beef.” They say Tel Aviv is the city that plays and Jerusalem is the city that prays and while that’s not 100% accurate, still I’ve never seen anything like that in Jerusalem! Duh.

About the author


Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.


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