Why the closet still beckons
An Israeli gay activist, here this week, says life for homosexuals is great in Tel Aviv. But in the UK community, acceptability is limited
MR GAY International, Nathan Shaked, was neither openly gay nor involved in the Jewish community when he studied in Britain 14 years ago. But the Israeli imagines that the situation for Jewish homosexuals here is similar to that at home — fine in the capital, more problematic outside.
The 38-year-old former lawyer — whose UK visit under the auspices of the Zionist Federation has attracted controversy — told the JC on Tuesday: “If you compare London and Tel Aviv, generally they are open-minded. There are places to go, like gay bars, gay shops; there are even gay TV shows. If you compare the two cities, it’s almost the same.
“But the further you get from Tel Aviv, the situation becomes different. In Tel Aviv, guys can walk down Shenkin Street hand-in-hand; but if you go outside Tel Aviv, the gay people stay behind walls.”
Mr Shaked adds that although the Israeli Army is not anti-gay, it can be a very lonely place for homosexuals, given that “young guys who want to be macho think being gay is not being a man”.
However, the tanned and athletic businessman — who owns a chain of eight fitness clubs in Israel and did not “come out” until he was in his early 30s — believes that things are changing.
“It’s a long process and it may take maybe 10 or 15 years when we get to a situation where two gay people will be able to express themselves in Kiryat Shmona, for example.
“We see more and more gay guys wearing yarmulkas,” he observes. “The ultra-Orthodox may have a problem with gays, but many things go against the religion. Many people don’t keep Shabbat or eat pork, but rabbis still accept them.”
Nathan Shaked: “Many people don’t keep Shabbat or eat pork, but rabbis still accept them”