Nitzan Horowitz Nitzan Horowitz Nitzan Horowitz speaks at a conference on February 17, 2012. (Photo: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung / Flickr)

Politician rallies rainbow flags in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv could soon elect the Middle East’s first gay mayor

Nitzan Horowitz, a mayoral candidate in the liberal Israeli city of Tel Aviv, calls his life a “gay cliché” because he lives happily with his theater-director partner and their dog – but there’s nothing commonplace about Horowitz. On October 22nd, he could become the first openly homosexual mayor in the Middle East.

Horowitz, 48, is a familiar face and name in Tel Aviv from his television career as a foreign affairs correspondent for Channel 10 and a foreign news editor for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. He was elected into the Knesset (Israel’s legislature) in 2009 and since then he has campaigned for social issues, advocated for African migrants and fought for lower-priced housing options in Tel Aviv, Israel’s most expensive city. Though he is clearly a pioneer for gay rights, he said, “I don’t intend to be mayor of just the gay community in Tel Aviv. I’ll be the mayor of everyone."

The incumbent, Ron Huldai, has been the mayor of Tel Aviv since 1998 and has already made major strides towards making Tel Aviv the Middle East’s most gay-friendly city. Each year Huldai allocates funds towards the city’s gay pride parade that recently drew in 100,000 people, a gay film festival, and a municipal center for the gay community.

Dubbed “the city that never sleeps,” Tel Aviv was ranked the top destination for homosexual tourists according to 2011’s GayCities.com user poll, but the situation in Tel Aviv isn’t quite perfect. Many high schools, Horowitz explains, are closed to gay organizations, gay representation in public institutions is poor, and gay couples have trouble adopting children.

Despite these obstacles, Israel is still the most progressive country in the Middle East, an area that is notoriously unwelcoming toward the LGBT community. Horowitz said, "I hope once I'm elected this will contribute to tolerance and understanding, not just in Israel, but in the entire region.”

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UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post reports that Nitzan Horowitz lost the mayoral race to incumbent Ron Huldai. Fortunately for the LGBT community, both candidates are committed to keeping Tel Aviv progressive and gay-friendly.

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Politician rallies rainbow flags in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv could soon elect the Middle East’s first gay mayor.