The exhibition revolved around Shirazi’s influence on TLV’s nightlife for the past 20 years. Live performances by the nightlife and fashion icon Amanda Lepore (NY), the Spanish dancer La Menor and all the FFF team at Beit Ha’ir Museum. Music: Asi Kojak, Tal Cohen, Moti S and more.
* Who is Amanda Lepore? Amanda Lepore is an American model, nightlife and fashion icon, performance artist, recording artist and transgender public figure. She has appeared in advertising for numerous companies, including M.A.C. Cosmetics, Mego Jeans, The Blonds, Swatch, CAMP Cosmetics, and Heatherette, which has used her likeness on clothing as well as hiring her as a model. Lepore is also noted as a regular subject in photographer David LaChapelle‘s work, serving as his muse, as well as many other photographers including Terry Richardson. She participated in his Artists and Prostitutes 1985-2005 exhibit in New York, where she “lived” in a voyeuristic life-sized set. Amanda Lepore has also released several singles, many written by and/or recorded with Cazwell. In 2011 she released her full-length debut album “I…Amanda Lepore” on Peace Bisquit.
“A kid last week said to another kid, ‘I have two moms,’ ” recalled Idan Netzer, who oversees the center’s preschool, which opened in November. “And the other kid said: ‘So what? Daniel in my kindergarten has two moms too.’ ”
It’s been a big year for gay parents in Israel. In May a committee of the Health Ministry recommended that surrogacy be allowed for gay men. (Currently they can only travel abroad for that option.) A month later organizers of Tel Aviv Pride, one of the city’s largest annual events, splashed images of two real-life gay fathers and their children on publicity materials and a banner next to Town Hall, making them the faces of the festivities.
But the societal change really hit home with the premiere in November of “Mom and Dads,” a series on the cable channel Hot. This comic drama, starring three of Israel’s most popular actors, is about a gay couple raising a child with a single woman.
If that sounds familiar, it might be because the basic premise, on the surface at least, bears a striking resemblance to the American show on NBC, “The New Normal,” which just landed in Israel as well, appearing opposite “Mom and Dads” on another big cable network, Yes. While the American show mines laughs from outrageous characters and snarky one-liners, “Mom and Dads” focuses on the complex dynamics of the parental triangle, layering their insecurities and complicated emotions with wry humor.
The shows may be fighting for viewers, but they’ve already won the battle for acceptance. For the most part Israeli society, which has made long and quick strides in gay rights in the past two decades, has reacted to the baby bump and the programs about it with nonchalance. Even the country’s sizable religious segment has merely shrugged at the series.
“As soon as the gay community became a parental community, I think acceptance by society became smoother,” said Doron Mamet-Meged, founder of Tammuz, a business that helps couples, the majority of them gay men, have children via surrogates in India.
One reason may be a heavy cultural focus on making families, and the subtle social pressure (and not-so-subtle familial pressure) to procreate that stems from tradition as well as modern Jewish history.
The population balance between Jews and Arabs has political implications, so demographics are an Israeli obsession. In building families gay parents contribute to the national project of maintaining a Jewish majority. “For Israelis it doesn’t matter how you make a family,” said Mirit Toovi, who heads Hot’s drama department and gave the green light to “Mom and Dads.” “If you make a family, you’ve done the right thing.”
Avner Bernheimer, a creator and writer of “Mom and Dads” who also wrote the breakthrough gay Israeli film “Yossi & Jagger” in 2002. Mr. Bernheimer said that while his father accepted him when he first came out, it wasn’t until he had a child that he really felt embraced. “I think it was easier for him to have a gay son with a grandchild,” he said.
Mr. Bernheimer pitched “Mom and Dads” in 2007, when he and his partner were in the process of having a child with a single female friend. The show, in large part, dramatizes their experiences.
“It was the easiest sale ever,” he said of the pitch. Gay characters had appeared on Israeli TV by then, but not gay families. This was pre-“Modern Family,” so there wasn’t precedent. Tellingly, Israel skipped over the party-boy phase (“Queer as Folk”) and the professional bachelor phase (“Will & Grace”), seemingly uninterested in a gay bedroom until a crib arrived.
The surge in gay parenthood coincides with a number of high-profile court cases between 2002 and 2009 that put the issue on the public agenda and opened possibilities to same-sex couples, like adoption and surrogacy abroad, paternity leave for gay couples and the ability to adopt the biological child of a same-sex partner.
While lesbians and straight single women have been having children for decades, thanks in part to the state’s generous policies, which provide free in-vitro fertilization procedures for up to two children until parents are 45, gay men didn’t have a way to legally expand their family tree until the recent court decisions. Since then parenthood has preoccupied gay men — more so than marriage. (Courts recognized same-sex marriage performed abroad in 2006, leading the gay community to turn its attention to parenting, trading the chuppah for the bris as its ritual of choice.)
Parenthood “is more visible, it’s more practical, more possible,” said Itai Pinkas, a former Tel Aviv City Council member who brought the court case that led to the Health Ministry committee’s recommendation and who has 2-year-old twins with his partner through a surrogate in India.
“People feel more stable about their general civil rights,” he said. “That’s an atmosphere in which you’re more likely to think about having children.”
That surrogacy has become so common is perhaps less surprising when you realize that the practice has biblical roots. Consider the story of Abraham, who fathered a child through Hagar, his wife’s handmaiden, when his wife, Sarah, was unable to conceive.
A few millenniums later companies like Tammuz are capitalizing on Abraham’s example. In February the American-based support organization Men Having Babies will hold a conference at the Tel Aviv Gay Center to introduce 10 new surrogacy agencies.
“Mom and Dads” and “The New Normal” seem to have unintentionally reflected reality rather than challenged it. “We were afraid it would be a bit niche,” Ms. Toovi said. “When we started talking about it, you saw those new families only in Tel Aviv. But now you see them all around.”
Yoram Mokady, vice president for content at the Yes network, agreed. “We thought we were brave and unique,” he said. “But maybe we weren’t.”
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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
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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.