Rainbow Roundup: The Good, the Bad and the Very, Very Queer

A review of the racial politics, religious presence, gender dynamics, political implications and shocking developments of Tel Aviv Pride Week.

Brian Schaefer
Brian Schaefer
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Brian Schaefer
Brian Schaefer

In most media coverage, the essence of the annual Gay Pride celebrations, in any city, tends to be distilled down to shots of nearly naked men and over-the-top drag queens. This week, Haaretz looked beneath the surface at other aspects of Pride, including the racial politics, religious presence, gender dynamics and political implications, for a composite picture that is more than skin deep.

Rainbow Report / God, politics and Israel’s gayest week ever

The Official Pride Video of Tel Aviv went viral and won fans for its easily digestible pop beats blended with a distinctly Middle Eastern flavor. The big story was the song’s singer: mainstream, straight Mizrahi vocalist Omer Adam, who gave the Israeli lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community a major boost of support by participating in the project and provided important visibility in the macho Mizrahi world, where gays are not usually so vocal. But some say the video is too male focused, exoticizes the Mizrahi identity and promotes tourism based on sex.

Rainbow Report / Bringing holiness to the hedonism of Tel Aviv Pride

It would be easy to dismiss Pride as something intrinsically secular – a hedonistic celebration of the flesh that, particularly in Israel, simply doesn’t mesh with the more holy parts of the land. But groups like Havruta and Bat Kol, the organizations for religious gays and lesbians, are teaching us that sexuality and spirituality need not be mutually exclusive.  The two groups have been marching in Pride Parades in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa for four years now and once again will be present to show that the LGBT community has a religious side too.

Rainbow Report / Lesbians rising: The quest to reclaim Tel Aviv Pride

Of the nine people on Tel Aviv’s Pride Committee, only one of them is a woman, which is representative of the female voice in the LGBT community in general. But women continue to carve out a place for themselves in the Pride festivities, including setting up their own street party along the parade route, producing female DJs and singers at the big municipal beach party at the end of the parade and staging a huge women’s party on Saturday night featuring Ninet Tayeb, one of the country’s most popular – and straight – female singers. Meet this year’s real queens of Pride.

Rainbow Report / Pride and politics in Tel Aviv's mayoral race

Pride is often infused with politics, but rarely does it get involved with political campaigns. Yet after Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), the first openly gay politician elected to the Knesset, announced his intention to run for mayor of Tel Aviv, all of a sudden Tel Aviv Pride became the launching pad for his campaign.  Horowitz is challenging incumbent mayor Ron Huldai, who has been at the helm of the city for 15 years and has been a strong and vocal ally of the LGBT community. It’s Huldai’s team that is producing the Pride Parade, but the community is Horowitz’s extended family so, in a sense, both men have home court advantage.

Rainbow Report / Reconsidering a tragedy on the eve of Tel Aviv Pride

Four years ago, a shooting at the Bar Noar, a center for LGBT youth, left two young people dead and shocked a community that thought it was safe in Tel Aviv. The tragedy brought Israel together in mourning, leaders from across the spectrum voiced their support, celebrities came out of the closet and the LGBT community found its political voice. The shooting became a rallying cry that there was still work to be done to gain acceptance. This week, on the eve of Pride, police arrested four people in connection with the shooting, including an activist in the LGBT community. Details are still emerging, but police have ruled out a hate crime and now point to more personal motives. So what does a community do when a defining event is no longer the symbol they thought it was?

A gay pride flag emblazoned with the Star of David, at the Pride Parade in Jerusalem in June 2009.Credit: Tess Scheflan / JINI
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Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, June 7, 2013.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
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The first same-sex couple to get married in France, at the opening of Israel's Gay Pride parade, June 6, 2013.Credit: Moti Milrod
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Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, June 7, 2013.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum