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Dancing on the edge of the volcano

by Vincent van der Kraan in Events & Agenda , 16 september 2002


The Israelian Ministery of Tourism itself invited your roving Gay News reporter to come do some sight-seeing in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Who wouldn’t just love to experience all those suicide bombings first hand! So off we went. Palestinian terrorist attacks not only tear daily life to shreds, the tourism industry is all but in ruins. But we gays are used to living dangerously, so if there’s one target group left it better be us, possums. Four glorious days I looked at a country I’d eyed with mixed feelings before



Gay excursion

Top attraction was the Gay Pride in Tel Aviv on Friday June 28. The Ministery presented us with a multi-varied program of gay parties, gay nightlife and visits to diverse cultural attractions, like the old city of Jerusalem and a swim in the salty Dead Sea. The El Al check-in at Schiphol airport now is probably the toughest of ‘em all. A specifically designed gay sightseeing trip as destination does raise some eyebrows, but is no reason for suspicion. Things didn’t get grim at any point. At Ben Gurion Airport we were welcomed by Ziv, our guide for the 5 days to come.
The hotel room on the 14-th floor has a stunning view over the wide open beach of Tel Aviv and despite the falling darkness we go right down for a dive into the warm embrace of the Mediterranean waves. That night we feaste on a sumptuous dinner in Jaffa, one of the oldest cities in the world, dating some 5000 years back. Actually Tel Aviv is some kind of stretched out outgrowth along the coast north from Jaffa and did come into existence around 1904. Our planned after-dinner drag queen show fell through. As spoiled Amsterdammers we’ve been up to our nose in drag queens, so with a sigh of relief we aim for the bars. All Tel Aviv gay bars and discos are closely grouped together. At Chaps we happen upon closed doors, but a boy at the door offers us spontaneously a gay excursion. We follow his cute behind to Outs, a bar as busy in as outside. Then it’s off to disco Deep, with its gorgeous bartenders, gorgeous cruisy clientele, a spacious dance floor and ditto darkroom.



Pride

The next day, on the afternoon before the Sabbath, we hoist ourselves into our nicest frock to go see the 12-th Gay Parade. Under strict security measures, 14.000 gay men and women assembled at the Ribin square. First miss Jael Dayan, Knesset member and daugther of Ministery of Defense legend Moshe Dayan holds a speech. Not a lady to avoid confrontations. She was one of the first to do the forbidden and go sunbathe on Jom Kipur, which got her the disapproval of the entire Knesset. In her speech she states Israel isn’t peopled by religious Jews only and they’d better wake up to the fact that non-religious Jews are also entitled to live their lives as they see fit. She’s vehement in her plea for more tolerance, which in her opinion should rank as top priority on Israel’s official agenda. The orthodox Jews in the Knesset are still strongly opposed to her proposal for official partner registration and even tried to get the present demonstration banned. The next speaker, Michal Eden, lesbian member of the Tel Aviv city council, shows the register she introduced this week in the council, in which gay men or women can have themselves registered as couples. The act is of necessity merely a symbolic one, since marriage in Israel is still a religious act open to straight couples only. Non-religious or mixed marriages can only be entered into abroad, and only thus will meet with official recognition in Israel itself. Whether gay couples will meet with official recognition this way remains to be seen, but is probably still a long way off. Then Ron Chuldai, the mayor of Tel Aviv, wishes all paraders success and gives the go-ahead for the demonstration. As former general in the army, the mayor was still a confirmed homophobe only a few years back, but his political instinct told him he’d better win the gay community over to his side. So this year the city of Tel Aviv is the parade’s major sponsor.



On another square gays have organized a counter demonstration, since they see no reason for partying, but only for mourning. Nice try, but I think it’s better to close ranks while fighting for equal rights. Gay moms and dads have their kids partake with their own car for that touch of innocence, since the amount was naked skin got negative comments. The parade passes by the monument for murdered prime minister Rabin, continues along a mile long lane to finally end up in Hayarkon Park where an enormous party goes on way into the sun rising over the Sabbath. Sabbathical peace is crudely interrupted at 11 pm with the start of a huge Gay Pride Farewell Party.



Dead Sea

The following day we’re taken on a visit to the old city of Jerusalem with its El Aksa Mosque, the famous Wailing Wall in front and nearby the Church of the Holy Grave, built over the 5 metres high mound of Golgotha. Imagine my surprise, when on these 10 square metres I‘m faced with 4 main biblical subjects, the crucifixion, the tomb Jesus resurrected from, the spot where Maria went into a coma and up to heaven and the stone where Jesus was laid out. Since centuries the church is run by a muslim family, who see to it the Armenian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic clergy men don’t go for each other’s throat. It’s quite impressive to actually see Muslims, Christians and Jews inhabit one and the same square mile.
At night we visit Jerusalem’s gay bar LuLu’s, some kind of gay living room with 40 men watching Queer as Folk together. A boy from Poland who’s moved here tells us how a religious Jew in Jerusalem deals with his homosexuality nowadays. You marry a woman religiously, get kids religiously and make sure you never mention the burning issue to any of your religious family members, friends, acquaintances or workmates. At night you sneak off to King David Park for some cruising and luckily there’s the internet with its chatrooms to meet new dates. To enter LuLu’s bar as an orthodox Jew is out of the question. The last day we traverse the West Bank on our way to the Dead Sea, pass Ramalha and Hebron in the knowledge heavy fighting is going on just a couple of miles off. The entire way you don’t notice a thing. Sometimes we pass a controle post with soldiers happily waving at us. At the Sheraton Hotel we’re treated to a mud bath of Dead Sea clay, whereupon we take a dive in the sea itself. Better don’t imitate the diving bit, the salty water will burn your eyes right out of your pretty face. Your body suddenly turns into some kind of floating object refusing to be pushed under. Better not float more than 20 minutes, since at 40 degrees the scorching sun will burn the salt crystals right into your your skin. It’s fantastic though, floatings on the Dead Sea with in visible distance the Jordanian beaches.

Though the present situation might be the reason withholding you right now from visiting Israel, it might well be the best invitation to come feast with the panthers.



 







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In the New Issue of Gay News, 314, October 2017

















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