Zalman Shoshi, a prominent figure in the Israeli LGBT community who described himself as “Israel’s first transvestite,” died Monday in Tel Aviv at age 68.
Shoshi, who was born Zalman Winder, was a central figure in the world of prostitution and crime, and gained publicity in his appearances on television talk shows and in interviews in the media in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
He gained notoriety in 1999 when he pretended to be Prof. Amnon Rubinstein’s doctor and sent a false message about his death that was announced on the Knesset dais.
Shoshi was born in 1948 and grew up in Haifa. At an early age he descended into the world of prostitution and experienced abuse. In the 1960s he moved to Tel Aviv, adopted the name “Shoshi” and started wearing women’s clothing. Later he experienced great suffering, which he described in his autobiography “All the Zalman in Shoshi: The Life Story of the Most Famous Zalman in Israel, from A to Z” (in Hebrew).
“My body is injured, my soul cries out, my tears are mingled with black blood, I have become a burnt emotional scar,” he wrote. “When I look back, I don’t see anything except ashes and ashes, although my life was an inflated balloon that is waiting for a cigarette butt in order to evaporate.”
In the 1970s and 1980s he received a lot of notice, mainly in the crime sections of the newspapers, due to various entanglements involving theft, an indecent act, assaulting policemen and impersonation, among other things – and served prison sentences. Later in life he tried to commit suicide and was hospitalized several times in various institutions.
In recent years he lived in poverty, suffering from diabetes, and made a living from lectures. In an 2011 interview, he said that he wanted to be remembered as “Zalman Winder, formerly the celebrity Zalman Shoshi, Zalman who fought for AIDS sufferers, Israel’s first transvestite.”