For more details: http://www.facebook.com/events/361759550584389/
Video by: Saar Mizrahi, Eitan Hatuka, Gal El-Ad and Ohad Yarel.
Starring: Renana, Yosale, Emil, Lyav, Yaron, Daniella, Meirav, Noa, Emili, Dana, Dim, Ohad, Harel, Nitzan and Nelson
Mikveh on Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/MikvehBar
by Adam Rosner
Tonight, a documentary I wrote and produced in Israel, The Invisible Men, will screen at the Other Israel Film Festival in New York City. The film tells the untold stories of gay Palestinians hiding in Tel Aviv, seeking refuge from the families and Palestinian security forces that want them dead and the Israeli authorities that want them out of the Jewish state. Five years after I moved to Israel and three after embarking on this project, these screenings present me with less a homecoming than a privilege: I return to my hometown more proud than ever to be Jewish, American, Israeli, and gay.
I grew up on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and I was, to put it simply, your all-American Jewish kid with all of the attendant neurosis and privileges. I was educated at the Ramaz School and Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, two flagship institutions of Modern Orthodox Judaism and American religious Zionism. I excelled in school. Socially, I was in the middle of the pack—somewhat awkward, always chubby, but who cared. I was accepted to Princeton University and graduated with a degree in Russian Literature with high honors. I wrote a thesis on Woody Allen. In the competitive worlds I was raised in, was accepted to, I was a “winner.” To my parents, especially my father—born to Polish Holocaust survivors, shtetl Jews, in a German Displaced Person’s Camp in 1946—I was living the life that he had always wanted for himself but could never have had.
But there was one competition for which I wasn’t even eligible—a “BNB” as Modern Orthodox Jews call it, a bayit ne’eman b’yisrael, a loyal home among the Jewish people, which normatively means a wife and children. As had started to become clear to me around the age of 12, I felt “different.” At summer camp, I wasn’t sneaking off with girls—not that I was sneaking off with boys. As I lost weight, I justified my confusion with same-sex attraction for insecurity and a difficult relationship with my father. In the 10th grade, I distinctly recall Ramaz Principal Rabbi Haskell Lookstein’s well-known Jewish sexual-education course. One of the few biblical quotes we had to memorize was Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie down with a man as with a woman: This is an abomination.”
Real clarity about my sexual orientation didn’t emerge until late into my college years—held off, I think, by the unusual relationship between Princeton’s straightness and its “small but strong” Jewish community. Princeton’s active Jews are often sheltered from the dominant WASPy culture that pervades campus socializing. At least this was how I experienced it when I tried to bridge my Jewishness with the secular freedom I enjoyed as just another student on campus. I felt this life—part-partier, part-student, partly Jewish, partly secular—left no room for coming out of the closet.
Well, this is called ‘acting.’ But did you feel like an ambassador of the Israeli gay community? Even though you’re not one of them?
“Of course. I talked a lot about Tel Aviv and how modern it is, and how it has become a gay tourist destination. Israel is a very liberal country. I think it’s very important to say it all the time: how liberal Israel is. I also told them about the beautiful beaches in Tel Aviv and how many hot shirtless guys they can find there,” he laughs.
Even though this is the first time Oz is playing a gay character, he says that he jumped on the role when it was first offered to him, especially because he was aware of the success of the movie ‘Yossi & Jagger,’ to which ‘Yossi’ is considered a sequel, around the world. “I think that was one of the main advantages of making this movie,” Zehavi says. “When I got into this project I kind of knew that it was going to be talked about all over the world. To tell you the truth, it was one of the reasons I wanted to do this movie, as a part of my development as an actor globally , and now in the US . Also, I wanted to work with Eytan Fox. He brought out of me something that I haven’t done before. It’s very different than the roles I had usually done in Israel.”
“When the kids in Gal and Noa’s kindergarden wanted to play ‘Mom and Dad,’ Noa and Gal suggested that they play Dad and Dad, but the rest of the kids thought there was no such thing.” This is the opening sentence of the new children’s book, entitled ‘Noa’s Dads,’ that’s being released November 1st in Israel, based on the true story of the Pinkas-Arad family. “I wanted to give kids who grow up in new families the legitimate feeling that they belong to Israeli society,” grandmother Shosh Pinkas, who wrote the book, tells Israeli web magazine mako.
Sperm giving, egg donation, hormones, surrogate mothers, in vitro fertilization, transfer, are some of the terms that are related to the complicated (yet wonderful) process that gay couples go through on their way to expanding their families. While the subject can be difficult to digest for grownups, Pinkas has spent months of work in order to compile the process in an easy and light way that can be suitable for kids. “After many sleepless nights trying to find the right words, the book was born,” she says, and then explains that part of her long process included reading all of the sexual education books for children, and presenting the book to a psychologist who specializes in children of young ages.
For Lider — whose solo career in Israel includes four gold- and two platinum-selling albums — working with TYP is a change of pace. “It enables me to do something that I didn’t do in my own career, and that is to be a bit more trashy, a bit more direct,” he says.
Case in point: “Gucci Gun,” a meditation on online hook-ups, in which he sings, “Let’s go naked on the floor, just close the door and bring it on.” In “Dirty Pictures,” he promises to get creative with his camera: “I love it when you send me dirty pictures to my mail/ The room is full of people and I’m just smiling to myself,” he sings. “I’ll be going to the bathroom/ Return the favor, as they say.”
Lider wasn’t always this forward. In high school, the young basketball fanatic found it easy to fall in love with boys, but painfully difficult to make any moves. It wasn’t until he was 24 and already a successful musician that things changed — but only after another guy made the first move. Coming out to his family was a breeze.
“I was living with my mom, and one evening I didn’t come home, and the next day she called from work and just said, ‘Is it a girl or a guy?’ I said, ‘It’s actually a guy,’ and she said, ‘Oh, cool, there’s pasta in the fridge.’ With my family, it was that easy.”
Although all the songs on TYP’s debut album, Nine to Five, Five to Whenever, are propelled by wall-of-sound synths and beats, dancing is not the only thing on the band’s agenda. Lider’s engagement with the popular protests that erupted across the world in the wake of Occupy Wall Street comes through in songs such as “Wake Up,” a paean to the street marches that closed down Tel Aviv last year. “It was the biggest demonstration I can remember — we had tents in the main boulevard for a long time — and I think it influenced some of the collaborative spirit of TYP,” says Lider, adding that Israel’s domestic politics are more fascinating to him than the long-running external conflicts that have defined the country’s image abroad, and which most Israelis feel powerless to change.
“These days, I’m much more interested in the internal politics,” he says, “which will of course affect the external politics of Israel — I see a cultural war going on here between religious parties and those who are more Western-oriented and liberal.”
With glitter bombs like Nine to Five, Lider is putting himself squarely on the front lines of that fight.
Ivri Lider’s Tel Aviv Must List
Montefiore Bar and Restaurant: One of my favorite restaurants in Tel Aviv, on the ground floor of the Montefiore Hotel — super good food and a cool bar with a very nice atmosphere. 36 Montefiore St.;HotelMontefiore.co.il
Yarkon Park: Next to the Yarkon river in the north of the city — great for running or rowing, basketball, or just sitting next to the water. HotelMontefiore.co.il
Tazzo D’Oro: The best coffee in Tel Aviv is at this Neve Tzedek café with great, simple food. 6 Ehad Ha’am St.; TazzaDOro.rest-e.co.il
Tel Aviv Museum of Art: The new building is impressive inside and out. TYP had the privilege to perform at the opening ceremony. 27 Shaul Hamelech Blvd.; TAMuseum.com
One Bike Studio: A single-speed bike store in Tel Aviv. Yuval, the owner of the shop, is a real expert at taking old bikes and turning them into beautiful art works. 75 Frishman St.