The queer state of Palestine (in Tel Aviv)
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For the past seven years, self-identified queer Palestinian performance artist Raafat Hattab has been revisiting a persona called Arouse Falastine, the Bride of Palestine. (That's also a nickname for Jaffa, where Hattab is from.)
On Thursday, November 29, mere hours after Mahmoud Abbas got an overwhelming thumbs-up from the United Nations General Assembly for Palestinian recognition, Hattab bid farewell to the bride. There he stood at the Alfred Gallery in Florentine, head newly shaved and all in black, weaving white yarn. An intentional comment on Palestine’s newly recognized status?
No. “I didn't know about [the UN bid] The exhibition's date was set a long time ago,” says the artist, who noted that the coincidence added a lot of personal significance to the performance and confirmed for him it was the right time to retire the bride. Might she rise again? Reality changes, he says: there's no telling what could be next.
Meanwhile, on Friday night, the monthly Palestinian Queer Party, organized by the Al Qaws (“rainbow” in Arabic) organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Palestinians, got underway at the Comfort 13 club in South Tel Aviv. A DJ spun traditional songs spliced with contemporary Arabic pop hits and a number of impressive drag performances.
Would there be any special acknowledgment that night of the triumph at the UN just the day before? No, said the volunteer at the door: Tonight's focus is World AIDS Day (which occurs each year on Dec 1).
“Most of the people here probably disagree with the vote,” said an attendee who wished to remain anonymous. “I’m a Palestinian from Haifa and that new state doesn’t really include me.”
Never mind politics, then. Revelers were busy enough doing what everybody does at a club: strike the delicate balance between looking cool while dancing and eyeing the attractive stranger across the floor.
Suddenly, the stars are politically correct (or just shy)
Acting may be their job, but in the United States, celebrities make politics their business too. In the 2012 presidential elections pop stars, movies stars, and other Hollywood elite had no qualms about casting very public votes. So with a few months until the election in Israel, who do celebs feel should lead the country?
We don't know. Mako, the Israeli news and entertainment portal, recently surveyed a number of well-known actors, musicians, artists and personalities to see who was willing to throw their support behind one of the many candidates and parties vying for control of the Knesset. For the most part, they came up empty-handed.
Neither actor-model Oz Zahavi nor actress Gila Almagor would respond when Mako called. Singer Ivri Lider said, “The truth is, I haven’t decided. I’m waiting to see what happens,” and comedienne Orna Banai similarly said she wasn’t yet sure: “It’s really hard to vote this year.”
So what’s going on here? Are folks really undecided or just playing it safe so as not to offend or isolate fans? Perhaps better to plead indecision than risk becoming a lightening rod for those who passionately disagree.
Take the popular TV host who tweeted a Haaretz OpEd during Pillar of Defense, and confessed to his followers that the article captured his sentiments exactly, “only I can’t say this because then they’ll call me a ‘leftist.’”
Still, some celebs were willing to take a stand.
Sports personality Itzik Zohar wasn’t ashamed to say he’s supporting Bibi and Likud and writer Yoram Kaniuk offered that he’d vote for Tzipi Livni if she runs (she is). Neither radio host Aviad Kissos nor writer/Big Brother champ Shifra Kornfeld were concerned about being perceived as lefties: both adamantly came out in favor of Meretz.
Please turn off your cell phone and note the nearest bomb shelter
Two weeks ago, as Operation Pillar of Defense was in full swing and Tel Avivis were adjusting to their new, vulnerable selves, the annual Curtain Up dance festival was getting underway at the Suzanne Dellal Center.
Each of the four evenings of the fest featured premieres by up-and-coming dance makers. The best got passed along to International Exposure, a 5-day marathon showcase of contemporary Israeli dance that begins this Wednesday, where a flock of international cultural curators descend on Tel Aviv to “shop” for performances to share with their audiences back home. For a local artist, it’s kinda a big deal.
By the second night of Curtain Up, the pre-show announcement had been slightly modified: “Ladies and gentlemen, in the case of a Code Red alert [aka, incoming bomb siren], the performance will be stopped and the house lights will come on. You can proceed to the bomb shelter or choose to remain in your seats.” Oh, and please turn off your cell phones so as not to disrupt the performance.
Viewing dance in that context made it seem surprisingly dangerous – not how we often consider the art form. But it’s hard not to think differently about a piece called “We Do Not Torture People,” Noa Shadur’s trio with military-like precision or Idan Yoav’s “The Unfortunates,” a dark, spastic dance-theater work that addresses “questions of society and power” and in which death seems to be a hovering character. And who knew how much music, if only for a second or two, resembles the shriek of a siren?
But bus bombings be damned, International Exposure is continuing as planned and organizers report minimal cases of guests getting cold feet.
“Only three ended up cancelling,” says Rachel Grodjinovisky, head of Foreign Affairs at Suzanne Dellal, which has produced and hosted the event for the past 18 years. “Some guests cancelled but, after corresponding with us, changed their minds and re-confirmed.” There were even a few new registrations in the middle of it all.
Either all those plane tickets were non-refundable or it’s going to take a lot more than a few rockets to keep away the fearless warriors that are dance fans.
Want to stay up-to-date with the cultural happenings around town? Follow Brian Schaefer on Twitter: @MyTwoLeftFeet. Share your own cultural adventures in Israel with hashtag #CultureFop.