Anger, frustration, and a desire to change set ways of thinking are not usually the driving force behind Israeli music. The social protest movement may eventually change that, but until now our musicians have not traditionally challenged authority. When a scream is released, it’s usually by punk or hip-hop bands. Nevertheless, frustration with the way things are – and a strong wish to change the situation – can also sprout from other sources as is evident in two recent cultural initiatives: one, a new record label; the other, a music blog.
The OutNow record label, to be launched Tuesday at the Levontin 7 nightclub in Tel Aviv, seeks to widen the horizons of the Israeli jazz scene. The Cafe Gibraltar blog is devoted to what is often called “world music,” yet at the same time is waging war against this expression and the cultural-political position that it represents. It celebrates its first anniversary Wednesday in a show at the Barbie Club in Tel Aviv.
MONTREAL — Unlike the previous two years, an anti-Israel group did not participate in Montreal’s annual gay pride parade on Aug. 14.
Queers Come Out Against Israeli Apartheid (QCOAIA) had been expected to possibly march again, and a Jewish gay group Ga’ava, the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA) and the Israeli consulate were prepared.
As it has for the past four years, Ga’ava (meaning pride in Hebrew) had a contingent in the parade. This year, CIJA (which has assumed much of the functions of the now-defunct Quebec Jewish Congress) lent its support to the Jewish community presence, and, for the first time, the State of Israel participated in the weekend festivities.
“They [QCOAIA] have always been pretty marginal and have become even more so,” said Jonathan Kalles, CIJA’s associate director of government relations, who attended. “The mainstream LGBT community has no patience for them.”
QCOAIA is a separate group from Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, whose participation in Toronto’s gay parade has provoked controversy.
About 40 people were aboard or walked with the float fielded Ga’ava, which encompasses lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gendered Jews, in the parade along René Lévesque Boulevard.
“There were people of all ages, straight and gay, some non-Jewish,” said Ga’ava chair Carlos A. Godoy. “Rabbi [Ron] Aigen [of the Reconstructionist Synagogue] walked the first half of the parade, and Rabbi [Julia] Appel [outreach rabbi at Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom] met us at the end. We tried to show the strength of intergenerational relationships and the togetherness of the Jewish community.
“We were extremely well received, cheered and applauded. People came out of the crowd to shake our hand, they thanked us.”
The organization also had a booth the previous day at the Community Day in the Gay Village. The theme of their display was Tel Aviv’s vibrant gay scene, and it recreated the city’s Hilton beach, complete with two tons of sand, a 10-by-10-foot backdrop and attractive models.
The group handed out information on rights and freedoms enjoyed by Israel’s minorities and about 1,000 pairs of free sunglasses from the Size Doesn’t Matter campaign, launched by the Canadian Federation of Jewish Students to promote a more positive image of Israel.
In co-operation with the consulate and the organizers, Ga’ava also brought in DJ Erez Ben Ishay to play the music following the parade at a dance party at Emilie Gamelin Park.
“Erez Ben Ishay, otherwise known as DJ Erez Bi, is one of Israel’s most acclaimed DJs and a regular in the Tel Aviv gay party scene,” said the consulate’s cultural attaché, Margaux Chetrit. Known for his taste in electronic music and Latin beats, he’s sought around the world and has performed in Ibiza, Amsterdam, New York, Sao Paulo and Las Vegas, she said.
“I am very happy to be invited for the first time to Canada to spin at Montreal’s gay pride festival,” he said. “Tel Aviv is where I started my career as a DJ, and I am happy to represent my beautiful city for the enjoyment of everyone.”
He was joined by Quebec DJs Charles Poulin and Stephan Grondin.
Chetrit said the consulate was proud to participate in this year’s edition of the parade, which under its current organization, has been held since 2007.
“He was a highlight of the evening, and was on for three hours,” Kalles said. “The crowd, which must have been about 20,000, was very excited, very enthusiastic about him. Many knew him already, and when he was introduced as coming directly from Tel Aviv, Israel, there was a huge cheer,” Kalles said.
The Ga’ava float, a decorated pickup truck, featured the Magen David banner in the rainbow colours symbolizing LGBT community, instead of blue. Similar T-shirts were designed especially for the event.
“The best way to counter [QCOAIA’s] negative and divisive message is with a strong, unified presence of like-minded Jews,” said Ga’ava in its publicity for the event. But the organization’s participation pre-dates that of the other group.
Unlike in the past two years, when Quebec Jewish Congress was an identifiable component in the Ga’ava contingent, CIJA was not visible as an organization, Kalles said.
Neither Ga’ava nor CIJA protested the possible presence of QCOAIA, and its non-participation was the group’s own choice, Kalles said. “No one tried to exclude them. We never said they should not be allowed to march. Trying to stop them would only give them the attention they seek.”
A non-profit organization founded in 2007 by McGill and Concordia University students, Ga’ava organizes social activities and seeks to promote the rights of LGBT members of the Jewish community.
Godoy said it has mailing list of about 300, but expected that to reach 400 after its Community Day presence.