They say that you should commute to work, not to your social life. But these wise words make no mention of where your spiritual life fits into the equation. Sarah Weil lives in Jerusalem because it “nurtures my religious identity. But it offers no expression for my lesbian identity.”
Tired of commuting an hour each way to Tel Aviv to enjoy the frequent lesbian parties there, Weil created Women’s Gatherings Jerusalem to bring her social life a little closer. Since the first gathering in November 2011, which brought together about 50 women – twice what Weil expected – the popularity of the regular gatherings have grown significantly. Clearly, she tapped into a need.
This Saturday, April 13, Women’s Gatherings takes another big step, launching E.V.E., its first dance party. And while it may be focused on the female, Weil is adamant that all are invited. “I’m not trying to create a gay ghetto,” she says. Gay, straight and men are all welcome. But behind the turntables, it’s a women’s world.
Women, women-identified and queer DJs are the stars of E.V.E., which aims to “to provide an open, loving and celebratory queer space and to encourage women’s club music.”
It’s more radical than it sounds, both because the world of DJs and club music is so heavily male-dominated and also because, in Israel, its so Tel Aviv-centric.
“I want to bridge these two cities,” says Weil. “I’m trying to create a DJ scene in Jerusalem.”
Though not a DJ herself, she does enjoy a good dance party. E.V.E. will feature a local DJ as an opening act, followed by a more established woman DJ brought in from Tel Aviv. Weil hopes the sisterhood of the traveling DJs will encourage those in the holy city to up their game.
As Madonna famously sang, “Hey Mr. DJ, put a record on, I want to dance with my baby” and, a few lines later, “Music brings the people together.” Such is Weil’s intention.
“In Jerusalem, there’s such incredible diversity,” she says; politically, religiously, and culturally speaking. “I want to create a space for all that diversity to flourish.”
In the process, Women’s Gatherings is injecting some new energy into Jerusalem, giving “expression to restless creativity, answering some unrequited longings” (as their mission statement says) and, for those who previously had to trek to Tel Aviv for a vibrant nightlight, cutting their commute by quite a bit.
E.V.E.: Saturday, April 13 / Bass Club
Hahistadrut 1, Jerusalem
Doors open 8 P.M.
“All I wanted was to be in Tel Aviv − such a great city, so alive, buzzing with energy, always something going on, every hour of every day and far into the night. But it was impossible: I couldn’t find anywhere to live.” Sound familiar? It is, except that Diana Lerner was describing the situation when she first came from New York to settle in Tel Aviv almost six decades ago.
Apparently, some things never change − at least, not when it comes to Israel’s longtime hub of commerce, culture and cool. Although it had not yet achieved its iconic global status of recent years, Tel Aviv in the 1950s and ‘60s was already a magnet for young people from abroad who wanted a more open-minded, cosmopolitan atmosphere than could be found in holy Jerusalem, says Lerner, a veteran freelance journalist.
The housing situation in the seaside city was extremely tough, recalls Lerner, who commuted for months from Jerusalem to her job in the Jerusalem Post’s Tel Aviv office. She then found a space in a hostel for young female immigrants in suburban
Ramat Aviv (“It took ages to get into central Tel Aviv − the bus came only once every couple of hours”), before landing a half a room in the apartment of a couple on Reines Street. Finally, in 1957, her father came to the rescue and helped Lerner buy the airy third-floor walk-up on Ben-Yehuda Street where she still lives today at the age of 91.
Born in Hungary in 1922, Lerner grew up in Manhattan and says that Tel Aviv irresistibly attracted her with its blend of urban energy, informality, charm and “sense of doing-ness.”
“The city was pretty rough around the edges in those days, and very dirty. And it was a bit provincial, like a small town where everyone knows everything about everyone else, from their job to their wives to their mistresses. But Tel Aviv was also like New York in many ways − there was always something going on and it was always a mecca for the avant-garde,” she recalls.
The center of the action was without a doubt Dizengoff Street − Israel’s Fifth Avenue, Champs Elysees and Oxford Street all rolled into one. The glittering thoroughfare was lined with shops showcasing the country’s top designers and hairdressers, and liberally dotted with popular cafes that were packed with all of Israel’s “who’s who” around the clock.
Each cafe had its own distinct character, specialty foods and most of all, its particular band of dedicated regulars, Lerner remembers. The bohemian hangout par excellence was the Kassit, at 117 Dizengoff, which served as a warm home to three generations of actors, artists, entertainers and literary luminaries from the moment of its establishment in the mid-1940s.
“Like a good Tel Avivian, I spent a lot of time at Kassit. Many of us were journalists, and we all used to go there after work, late at night, and share the day’s news − and of course, lots of gossip. Almost no one had a telephone in those days, but who needed it when we had Kassit,” she laughs.
“Having a phone was one thing I missed from New York − that and having a constant supply of electricity,” Lerner says wryly, describing the frequent power failures and the equally frequent shortage of batteries. Like everyone else, she waited four or five years before a phone line was installed in her apartment.
On Friday afternoons, Dizengoff turned into a never-ending parade of fashion, shameless flirtation and serious schmoozing as people thronged its cafes − Rowal (Kassit’s more bourgeois rival), Pinati, Frack and others − or strolled up and down the tree-lined street. On any day of the week, it was the national epicenter of girl-watching, Lerner notes. In any case, in those days before air-conditioning, sweltering Tel Aviv was “a place where people lived their lives outdoors, on the streets, in the sidewalk cafes, on the beach or their own balconies,” she points out. As a result, Tel Avivians always seemed to be tanned, toned and very sexy.
In matters of fashion, there were two ways to go − either super-stylish and elegantly coiffed, or bohemian and laid-back, says Lerner: “The Yekkes [Jews of German origin] were sticklers for hats and gloves; the creative people wore everything. In my crowd, nobody seemed to care how you dressed.”
This laissez-faire attitude prevailed in many areas of life, and there was also apparently lot of freedom in terms of sexual behavior. “There was a lot of what was called free love, and everyone knew who was sleeping with whom. Also, at a time when homosexuality was totally taboo in mainstream Israel, there was a thriving gay and lesbian culture in Tel Aviv, where these things were open and accepted. Hayarkon Street was known as a place for gay ‘hook-ups,’” Lerner says.
While much of this sounds surprisingly contemporary, Lerner notes that some things have changed: Tel Aviv is “less intimate and less innocent. Nowadays, there’s a money culture, and it’s more snobby and phony than it used to be.
“On the other hand,” she grins, “Tel Aviv is still the place you want to be. There’s just no other city like it.”
Many of show’s images of frenzied nights were taken (perhaps by the one person not so drunk that he couldn’t hold a camera) at HaOman 17 (88 Abarbanel St.),Tel Aviv’s biggest club. The action starts late inside this former warehouse in the gritty south end of town (note: it’s huge but hard to find, so a taxi is a must). If you’re lucky you’ll be visiting when popular Israeli DJ Offer Nissim is spinning there. Nissim is famous for his dark tribal progressive house beats and mean Madonna remixes—he opened for Madge at the first concert of the MDNA tour, in Tel Aviv, last year.
Some of the best Tel Aviv nights out begin, naturally, with the alcoholic beverage of your choice. Your first stop on the tipple circuit should be any of the large bars around the lower and generally ebullient reaches of Lilienblum Street and Rothschild Boulevard. Or start where the trendy bohos are at Port Sa’id (Har Sinai 2). It’s a groovadelic drinkery that takes its name from the Egyptian coastal town and is located, ironically enough, behind Tel Aviv’s Great Synagogue. Both the interior and terrace fairly ooze retro flair (funky background music emanates from vinyl here) and you can make yours an uncomplicated arak cocktail or beer before moving on to one of numerous watering holes on trendy Nahalat Binyamin Street nearby.
Hot spots there include the newish Soda Bar (Nahalat Binyamin St. 43), where you’ll find a healthy serving of sizzling dance sounds and Dr. Pepper-based cocktails, and Shpagat (next door, same address), the city’s new go-to gay spot (more bar than club) in a former ballet studio that offers funky stadium-style seating and modern electro beats pumped out at a decibel level that will not preclude flirting with the abs-olutely fabulous bartender.
Remember that Thursday tends to be the wildest party night in Tel Aviv, because it’s like Fridays most everyplace else (Sunday being a work day in Israel), and that’s when bars and clubs of all stripes really start to fill up. But most any night will do at the Block(157 Salame St.), which, despite its location essentially inside a bus terminal in the shadiest part of town, draws big name international DJs like tinkerer-of-Björk-tunes David Morales. And in a boisterous side street with no remarkable Bauhaus architecture whatsoever you’ll find the Zizi Club (7 Carlebach St.), whose PAG line—line being the local idiom for “themed club party”—on Fridays is the city’s hottest electro night and attracts a loyal, fashion-conscious and not infrequently gender-bending crowd.
The Milk and Breakfast Club (6 Rothschild Blvd.) has nothing to do with either (you expected things to make sense? This is the Middle East!), but is one of the best spots to shake it on the way-after-hours side. It puts on a Thursday line with a loyal gay following. For more of an Arab acoustic flavor hit the Anna Loulou Bar in Jaffa (Hapanini St.) on Wednesdays. Pair wicked libations with equally wicked electronica and hip-hop beats at the underground (literally) Michatronix club (28 Ben Yehuda) or the very hopping and decidedly non-kosher Deli (47 Allenby St.), a secret dance club lurking behind a streetside sandwich counter. And to see just how reluctantly clothing and the dance floor mix in Tel Aviv once the weather warms up—well, check back with me around Passover.
After conquering Israel and Europe with a groundbreaking party at Madrid Pride, PAPAembarked on its World Tour on 7 October 2012 in New York City.
World-class DJs, exceptional performances, surprises throughout the night & and an incredible energy have made PAPA famous all over the world.
Follow our PAPA World Tour as we take each city, each continent by storm and remake people’s expectations of THE BEST PARTY IN THE WORLD.
PAPA: Paris – Saturday, 12 January
PAPA: Playa del Carmen – Saturday, 2 February
PAPA: Mexico City – Sunday, 3 February
PAPA: Bogotá – Saturday, 9 February
PAPA: NYC – Sunday, 17 February
PAPA: Montreal – Saturday, 30 March
PAPA: Montreal – Saturday, 31 March