The Arty Semite

In Israel, Not So Many Gay Days?

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share

Since horrific headlines are often all that is seen in the English language media about the LGBT civil rights movement in Israel, on June 8, the JCC in Manhattan will offer a valuable corrective. The 2009 Israeli documentary “Gay Days,” directed by Yair Qedar, will be presented by two festivals — The JCC’s 6th Annual Faigele Film Festival and NewFest: The New York LGBT Film Festival.

Qedar’s film interviews some noted arts figures, such as director Eytan Fox, but inevitably must cover a lot of agitated social history, organized protests, and dismaying violence. Some gender specialists are also on hand, like Amalia Ziv, an Assistant Professor at Ben-Gurion University who has published a scholarly analysis, “Diva Interventions: Dana International and Israeli Gender Culture” in the incisive collection of articles, “Queer Popular Culture: Literature, Media, Film and Television” from Palgrave Macmillan.

Indeed, Dana International, a transsexual Israeli superstar singer born Yaron Cohen to a Yemenite Jewish family, would seem to call for a documentary herself, to explain her lasting success in a country supposedly dominated by Mediterranean machismo and homophobia.

Yet “Gay Days” is not principally about artistic experience, although Qedar, who is currently preparing a new documentary about the Israel Prize-winning poet Leah Goldberg, might wish that it were possible to focus entirely on the cultural achievements of Israeli gays and lesbians, instead of on their gritty struggle for basic rights. Then a gay Israeli man like the multitalented composer, conductor and pianist Gil Shohat might be given some of the attention that his accomplished music richly deserves.

Or the remarkably productive poet and translator Robert Friend, for over 30 years a fixture on the English faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, whose homosexuality did not impede his achievement, as the 2006 collection, “Found in Translation: 20 Hebrew Poets Translated by Robert Friend” from Toby Press, demonstrates. Among the wonderful poets translated by Friend, making them accessible to English language readers, are Haim Nachman Bialik, Rachel, Natan Alterman, Gabriel Preil, and Yehuda Amichai.

It will be gay days indeed for Israel if the current internecine agitation finally settles down so that people of all gender orientations can learn to tolerate one another, and documentaries can be made instead on talents like Friend or Shohat.

Watch a benefit recital given last year by Shohat for ESRA, an English-speaking nonprofit organization which runs a food pantry in Netanya:


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yair Qedar, Gil Shohat, Robert Friend, Dana International

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.