America’s #1 gay travel magazine Passport highlights Nadav Peretz, founder of travel company Outstanding Travel, which specializes in LGBTQ travel to Israel and Greece. Nadav spoke about his life and business, and the recent collaboration with the American group for gay dads, Gays With Kids.
If there is one takeaway from chatting with Nadav Peretz, founder of OUTstanding Travel (www.outstandingtravel.com), it is that there is more to a book beyond its cover. It’s easy to get wooed by the charming 33-year-old’s bright white smile and picture-perfect, sun-kissed complexion. His familiar ease has been a trademark presence for the thousands of travelers that have explored Israel and Greece (and soon other Mediterranean destinations) through his travel company, which celebrated its third anniversary this spring. But like many LGBT youth, Peretz had to come to terms with his own identity, and eventually embrace it, before he was truly empowered to embark on a career that now spans the globe, attracting tourists from around the world to explore Israel’s wonders and other destinations rich in culture and history.
Peretz was born in the small city of Tiberias that lies on the idyllic western shore of the Sea of Galilee. While most may think of Jerusalem as Israel’s holiest city, Tiberias’s 2,000-year-old history holds a special place for Jews and Christians alike. It is where Jesus Christ is said to have walked on water at nearby Lake Kineret, while centuries later Gracia Nasi saved Jewish refugees from the Spanish Inquisition. The hot springs at Hamat Tiberias National Park have offered therapeutic spa offerings for generations. This complex and beautiful landscape was the backdrop for Peretz’s youth, at which time his father served as the city’s mayor. “It was a special childhood,” reflects Peretz. “Being the son of a mayor in a small town, I experienced things that other kids did not.”
But circumstances dramatically shifted for Peretz when he was 16, and his father accepted a government position overseas and relocated the family to Great Neck, a region on Long Island, New York. A new country, a new language, and his own sexual awakening proved difficult for Peretz. An article in an Israeli newspaper set into action a course of events that would further complicate his family dynamic but ultimately lead to resolution and acceptance.
Peretz had read an article in an Israeli newspaper about five Orthodox Jewish men who identified as being gay, and though each one had a different story, it was the first time he realized that he wasn’t alone. At the end of the article was information about JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing), a controversial gay conversion therapy program based in Jersey City. (In 2015 JONAH was ordered to close by a New Jersey superior court judge.) For eight months, Peretz secretly sought out “treatment” and eventually told his parents, who were in shock. Self-acceptance would require returning to his homeland.
A few months later, Peretz returned to Israel to join the army. Since 1993, Israel has permitted gays, lesbians, and bisexuals to openly serve in the military. (Ironically, it was the same year that the United States’ “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” directive was issued.) “None of my friends experienced homophobia,” says Peretz of his military experience. “The army was very accepting. Everyone was welcome: men, women, transsexual, gay, straight, Christian, Jew, and Muslim.” Peretz revisited the conversation with his parents, this time coming from a place of acceptance and self-worth. And with this empowerment, they said, “If you are happy, we are happy.”
Much of Peretz’s experience with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) involved connecting with Jewish communities throughout the world to promote international relations, and he eventually returned to New York to work with the Israeli consulate in public relations and marketing. “My passion has always been to bring people to Israel. People imagine the desert and soldiers and religion, but it’s also modern. Outside of Silicon Valley, Israel is number two in technology.” Just this March, Intel announced the acquisition of Mobileye, a Jerusalem-based, autonomous vehicle technology company for $15 billion— the largest hi-tech purchase in Israel’s history. Continue reading on Passport magazine