Survey paints Israeli gays as educated, big spenders

The axiom that homosexuals make good customers, long accepted by U.S. companies, is now apt to be accepted by Israeli businesses as well.

What will probably convince these companies to advertise in gay publications — as their U.S. counterparts do — is a survey recently carried out by the Tzarfati-Sternshus-Zamir Advertising Agency of Tel Aviv.

Aside from indicating that the 212 homosexuals who participated in the study are extraordinarily well-educated (60 percent are academics) and earn above-average incomes in fields like art, computers and advertising, it also showed that they spend a great deal of money on restaurant meals, luxury clothing, entertainment and overseas travel.

The survey has already prompted the advertising agency to advise travel companies to offer special tours to gay European gathering-places such as Ibiza and Mykonos and to New York during the city's annual Gay Pride Parade.

Apparently Israel itself appeals to overseas gays, as is evident from the brochure a large American travel wholesaler sent to hundreds of travel retailers that have many homosexual customers.

The brochure was headlined: "You don't have to be Jewish to sell Israel."

Overseas gays who visit Israel are likely to spend most of their time in Tel Aviv, where an estimated 70 percent of Israeli homosexuals reside, and where there are numerous gay bars. That is why, until this year, Gay Pride Day has always been celebrated there. This year, however, the venue was Jerusalem — specifically, the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University.

The day's central event was a meeting between gay students and lecturers, held at the University Law School and addressed by Law School Dean Uriel Procaccia. Among the topics discussed were gay and lesbian studies and "100 Years of Zionism as Against 100 Years of the Homosexual Struggle."

It was appropriate for the meeting to take place at the Hebrew University, where student and faculty gays have long since come out of the closet. Indeed, one of the most active campus clubs is The Other Ten Percent, a name chosen by gays based on an estimation that one out of every 10 individuals is gay or lesbian.

Aspiring archaeologist Amir Fink, a group leader, says there are great differences between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv gays. The former tend to be monogamous homebodies, Fink says. The latter, in contrast, frequent gay bars and spend relatively little time with any particular partner.

"This may be," he muses, "because there are so many more potential partners in Tel Aviv."

Jerusalem's gay population includes some fervently religious Jews and a few Palestinians. "Both," Fink adds, "have a very difficult time because they are pariahs in the eyes of their societies of origin."