In 1988, my then-partner got me a subscription to the magazine Maga’im (Contacts), edited by Mark Ariel; it first came out the year before. The journal arrived by mail a few times a year in a discreet brown envelope. It featured articles on the state of the local LGBTQ community, some news from abroad, an arts section that presented classics of gay culture, letters to the editor, the occasional short story and an ample personals section.
It was mainly a magazine for gay men, but it was the only thing of its kind in Israel aside from Gal Ohovsky’s column “Moshe” published anonymously in the newspaper Ha’ir.
In September 1996, a little less than a decade after the launch of Contacts, which had since ceased publication, the first issue of Hazman Havarod, The Pink Time, was published. Unlike Contacts, which was subscription-only, The Pink Time was free (like the British Pink Paper), distributed in several cities around the country by volunteers. It could be found at milk bars, outside gay clubs, in bookstores and on campuses.
The difference between the two modes of distribution reflects the change of that decade: In the Tel Aviv of the ‘80s, significant gay nightlife developed, but the community was largely in the closet. But starting in 1992, it rapidly transformed: politicization, public visibility, the development of institutions and the emergence of queer culture. The Pink Time gave expression to this process and was one of its main catalysts.
For the sake of historical accuracy, it’s important to note that between the late ‘80s and late ‘90s, the community also boasted other periodicals like Claf Hazak launched in 1989 by the CLAF lesbian feminist collective, and the Another Path magazine of the Aguda LGBTQ rights group published in the early 1990s. But both were mainly read only by members.
We also had some short-lived or single-edition publications, including the Not According to Nature pamphlet edited by Oren Kaner and designed by the late Tamir Lahav published in June 1994. There were also the two issues of the magazine Subculture edited by Yair Qedar – before abandoning the fancy format (chrome paper, color photographs of artworks) for the deliberately cheap and trashy format of The Pink Time (a newspaper, only eight pages in the first issues, provocative title pages and low color contrast).
In contrast to Claf Hazak and Another Path, The Pink Time targeted readers beyond the few hundred lesbians and gay men whose political consciousness led them to unite as CLAF or Aguda. The readership also went beyond the community's elite interested in poetry and interviews with foreign artists and intellectuals in Subculture.
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The Pink Time appealed to nightclub goers, students, people who had just begun to form their queer identity, and those who had long come out of the closet, whether veteran Tel-Avivians or new arrivals. It was totally in your face and intentionally politically aggressive: Politicians or celebrities who insulted or harassed the community were subjects of outrageous cover pages.
For example, the cover of the November 1996 issue featured a collage of the heads of Zevulun Hammer and Hanan Porat from the National Religious Party attached to the bodies of two shapely models in a homoerotic pose. The headline: “Zevulun and Hanan, gentle and beloved, or, the religious took out a contract on us.”
On the cover of the January 1997 issue, following a homophobic statement by then-President Ezer Weizman, his caricature by Jeremy Pincus appeared with the caption “Sugar daddy.” There was also a quote from transgender pop singer Dana International declaring: “He’s not my president.”
When Finance Minister Yaakov Neeman – whose last name means “loyal” – refused to allocate funds to the Health Ministry to buy HIV medication, his portrait (as part of a collage by French artists Pierre et Gilles) appeared on the cover with the caption “Death has a loyal helper.”
To understand the significance of The Pink Time, consider the following statement: Newspapers create their public. The public they address does not precede them, but is formed by the discourse addressing it in the pages of the newspaper.
The queer theorist Michael Warner coined the term “counterpublic” for a community whose members are targeted and excluded from the general public, breeding alternative modes of discourse. Warner notes that counterpublics not only represent existing interests of individuals, they can develop new social and cultural worlds and spawn new forms of gender and sexual citizenship.
“Homosexuals can exist in isolation; but gay people or queers exist by virtue of the world they elaborate together,” he states. A community is always an effect of discourse, a discourse not only targeted at a familiar audience but finding people who identify themselves as its recipients. The LGBTQ community in Israel became a counterpublic in the ‘90s thanks to the collective spheres of discourse it created, and The Pink Time was one of the most influential.
The “community” was not a preexisting entity just waiting for enlightened and safer times to come out of the closet and be discovered like some lost Atlantis. The community, that is, the LGBTQ community, came about via the fabric of texts and images regularly woven on the pages of The Pink Time – texts and images through which we understood ourselves and each other, defined a common cultural world and crafted coordinates of a political language.
For example, the op-ed section featured debates on issues such as whether CLAF is still a feminist organization, what was Aguda’s role and which political parties should be supported by community members. But other sections of the paper provided a stage to young artists from the community and gave us a taste of queer culture from abroad.
Alongside the high culture, we got respectful reporting on the club scene, the “Ibn Shoshana Dictionary” of gay slang and an unapologetic preoccupation with sex. This public sphere was mostly gay, yet quite a few lesbians, I among them, took part in it. The queer public sphere that emerged included HIV carriers, nightlife and media personalities, activist of all ages, early-career academics and artists.
I’ve made sure to keep my issues of The Pink Time because it was clear to me they had historical significance. Several other people and institutions maintain similar archives, some of which are now on the internet. Now The Pink Time archive awaits researchers to dig through its dusty pages and inquire about the story of the formation of the gay community in this country.
Amalia Ziv is a faculty member in the Gender Studies Program at Ben-Gurion University and the author of the Hebrew-language book “Sexual Thoughts: Queer Theory, Pornography, and the Politics of Sexuality.”