The Blog of the Jerusalem Open House


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Jerusalem Pride March

The Jerusalem Open House, along with other organizations and individuals from across the country marched on the Knesset on Thursday.  The English Speakers Group took quite a prominent role, holding the banner and balloon arch that lead the parade.  Thankfully it was mostly a non-violent demonstration – though one woman was beaten up on her way to the march when someone learned where she was headed. 

The march was the perfect conclusion to Kati and my summer, a high point after two months of working at the Open House.  I was so proud of this community that an event like the March could happen in Jerusalem. The rally at Gan HaVradim was also very poignant, as we demanded the right to be treated like human beings.  Nir Katz’s mother spoke, along with a member of the Knesset and letters from Tzipi Livni and the minister of education. 

I wish I could write more, but I must catch a plane in Tel Aviv.  This blog will go on haitus until the next coordinator of the English Speakers Group arrives, hopefully in the fall.  Until then, enjoy some pictures from Ma’ariv – the nation’s third largest paper – including one of members of the English Speakers Group at Pride holding the lead banner: http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART2/138/898.html?hp=54&loc=3&tmp=9387


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Final English Speakers Event of the Season – Karaoke at HaTaklit

Last night the English Speakers Group held our final social activity of the summer – karaoke at HaKatze.  The bar has a great karaoke set up, with lots of variety in song choice and we all got into it.  Favorites included Lady Gaga and oldies like the Beattles, as well as past Eurovision winners and American classics like Bruce Springstein and Shania Twain (we are English speakers after all!).  People sang solo, in duets, and even in larger groups, and though we weren’t always quite on tune, I think everyone had a great time.  Some of the JOH staff even joined and were eventually coaxed on stage despite loud protests.  The video recordings of their performances will live on in infamy in the annals of Facebook.

Here are some picturs of the rest of the group being rockstars:

Coming from both of us, thank you to everyone in this community that made our summer internship so much fun.  Kati and I have loved getting to know you and this city and we’re expecting some serious reverse culture shock upon our return to school.  The JOH staff manages to make coming into the office something to look forward to, and I’m sure we’ve made lasting friendships with members of our beloved English Speakers Group.  Thank you for everything

We are still looking for a new coordinator for the English Group, so if you are interested in planning (less frequent) social activities during the year, please email us.  It’s really worthwhile to get involved. Trust us.


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Preparing Signs for Pride and the English Speakers Group Does Drag

Yesterday was quite the busy night for the Jerusalem Open House.  At 7, English and Hebrew speakers alike gathered to make signs from Pride.  It was quite the diverse group – America, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain and, of course, Israel were all represented.  The posters produced were just as varied.  Some chose paint, others markers, some slogans, and others just drew pictures.  By the end of the night we nearly filled our Youth Room with signs in English, Hebrew, Arabic, and even Spanish.  It was great to have the community come together in anticipation of our yearly celebration – Jerusalem Pride – which is just over a week away.

Right after sign making, the English Speakers Group had a real treat – a drag workshop led by Hakatze’s Galina Port de Bras. The group of about 8 women and 2 men first learned about the history of drag (who knew the roots of drag can be traced all the way back to ancient Egypt and Greece?) and say some classic drag queen and king performances, including excerpts from “To Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything. Julie Newmar”.  You may also want to check out Ms. Port de Bras’ favorite drag king, Mr. Buck Naked, and one of the great celebrity impersonators, Canadian Christopher Peterson.

During the two and a half hour workshop we covered a lot of material, including the difference between female impersonators and drag queens, various styles of drag, gender-bending and faux drag.  Galina was also very clear in emphasizing that drag takes both charisma and brains – you can be the best performer in the world, but if there isn’t a deeper message behind that performance, if it doesn’t make people think, then the drag has yet to reach its full potential.  The night culminated with a mini drag session where we all learned how to deal with sticky-out bits and how to stand and walk like the opposite  sex.  Transforming your body and behavior to is much more difficult than it might seem.  Often you’re not even aware that the way you act is indicative of gender at all.  There are tons of tricks used to imitate a different sex and we learned about makeup, prosthetics, and clothing that can help.  Most of the clothing options sounded more than a little painful to me, but a girl’s got to do what a girl’s gotta do.  Trying to talk like a man was perhaps most difficult for me since I couldn’t help but crack up as the ladies used their hands to limit their facial muscle movement, and ended up looking like Munch’s famous painting “The Scream”.  The boys had a hard time walking in an appropriately feminine way. It takes time and practice to sashay down the floor properly.  At the end of the night we put on music and had a walk off.  Just remember future drag kings: pretend you’re an angry underwear model and lead with your phallus.

Thank you to all the baby drag queens and kings for participating, and especially to our fearless leader Galina for bestowing a small portion of her seemingly endless knowledge of drag upon us.  As summer interns, Kati and I we only have one more week at the Open House (time does fly when you’re having fun in drag).  It’s been a great run and both Kati and I are sincerely going to miss this community when we go back to school, but at least we’re going out with a bang – Pride is our last day of work.  There will be one more English Speakers Group with us next Monday at 8.  We’re belting *out* some tunes, doing karaoke to kickoff Pride week.  All are welcome, so please come!

Since Kati and I are going back to the States, the JOH is looking for a new coordinator for the English Speakers Group.  We have had a blast all summer organizing events and hanging out with this wonderful community and we’re sure you would too! All are welcome to apply – Israelis or temporary residents alike – as long as you speak English fluently. To learn more, check out the facebook group looking for recruits.  You can also email us at english.joh@gmail.com.


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Jerusalem Pride’s Back On!

The Jerusalem police have reversed their earlier ruling and Jerusalem Pride will now culminate with a rally in front of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) as planned on July 29th!

This is especially important news since this year’s pride will commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Bar-Noar shootings by demanding additional rights and protections for the LGBT community.  The march’s tag line – “What is Equality?” – is fitting as we focus on five key areas of inequity, including access to health services, the right to family, freedom from hate, freedom of identity, and access to state resources. You can learn more about the march on our newly refurbished (!!) English website here . Also, there’s a cool little sideshow talking about “What is Equality?” available from the JOH’s Facebook page under videos (sorry it’s not translated into English yet, getting there!).

During this week’s English Speakers Event (Monday at 8 PM at the JOH) our community coordinator Yotam will talk for a bit about how to get involved in the parade. We will also have lots of desserts and icing to sweeten the deal!  If you can’t make the meeting, but would still like to get involved regardless of your Hebrew level, here’s how:

Physical and Virtual Presence: Become a visible supporter of LGBT rights and of the Jerusalem Pride Parade. Pass out fliers in your neighborhood or in other popular public places! Join the Jerusalem Pride Parade’s Facebook page and invite friends!

Ushering: Want to take a more active role during the parade itself? We need ushers to guide people along the parade route and to inform JOH staff of any issues. Ushers are crucial to ensure the parade runs smoothly and will meet a couple hours before the start of the march.  You will still get to participate in the parade – you will just get to wear an official t-shirt while you do it! Recruit your friends, family or random people off the street to help as well. The more the merrier!

Contact community@joh.org.il for more details about how you can get involved!

And now for your viewing pleasure, an article originally printed at on the police’s decision to allow the parade to continue as planned:

Police okay gay pride parade route to Knesset

Police backpedal, approve parade organizers’ request to conclude march outside parliament

Ronen Medzini

Published: 07.06.10, 14:08 / Israel News

Jerusalem District Police have backpedaled and have now granted authorization to the gay pride parade, to be held in the city at the end of the month, to conclude at the Knesset building as per the request of its organizers.At the parade’s end, a rally will be held in the nearby Rose Garden.

A number of weeks ago, the police recommended that the parade be held on the same route as it was last year, citing security concerns.

This year, the Jerusalem pride parade will mark the one-year anniversary of the slaying at the gay youth center in Tel Aviv and will be billed as Israel’s national gay pride parade. For this reason, the organizers insisted that the parade conclude at the doorsteps of Israel’s legislative branch. Jerusalem Open House Executive Director Yonatan Gher said, “The parade route to the Knesset, on the anniversary of the murder, is the proper route to symbolize what the parade is demanding – full equal rights for the gay community in Israel and an end to the incitement, violence, and silencing that we experience everyday.”

Gher continued, “On this day, the message that will be sent from Jerusalem to Israel and the world will be a message of accepting the other, of celebrating the human diversity that makes up this unique city, the capital city that is holy to all of us.”

Ayala Katz, bereaved mother of Nir Katz who was murdered in the Tel Aviv youth center shooting, said that she will participate in the Jerusalem event.

“The message sent today to all of Israel’s citizens is that threats of violence are not rewarded. The parade on the eve of the murder’s anniversary is granted full legitimacy today, and we, as parents, will march for the benefit and the future of our children,” Katz said.


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Queers, Beers, and Games (Minus the Beers)

Last night we held our second English Speakers Group event of the year – Queers, Beers, and Games (though since no one brought any beer, it was really just queers playing games).  We had a great group of about 10 from all over the city and played hybrid pictionary/charades all night.  It was a hoot to make up our own clues, then watch people desperately try to draw them before time ran out. How do you draw ‘softness’ anyway?

In other English-related news, if you are interested in joining an English speaking allies group for friends and family of LGBT people, please email english.joh@gmail.com.


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Drag Queens and Swing Dancing

This week was a very busy one for me at the Jerusalem Open House. Not only did I spend most of Sunday at the community center, working on the newsletter and the database with Dalit and the other interns/volunteers; I also attended two big events, the opening of the Hakafot café on Tuesday and my own event, the English Speaker’s Group swing dance night (“Swinging Queerly”), on Saturday.

While the café’s grand opening was advertised as an English-friendly event, I was disappointed to see the only English-speakers there were Ahuva and myself. This made the first hour or so rather boring, since we were isolated among a bunch of Hebrew-speakers who already knew each other. I did, however, get to consume some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (Cookies & Cream, 7NIS) and pie (apple, 10NIS). I would have just gone for the pie, but it wasn’t out at first so I didn’t know about it.

And then the drag monarchs came out—two drag kings and two drag queens, regular performers at HaKatze. I am happy to say that my videos from Open House came out pretty good:

The event was also advertised as an open mic night, but there was no open mic about it. Once the drag monarchs (yes, I know I’m making up this phrase), the night was basically over. I don’t know how much café-related items JOH actually sold, but the drag drew a nice crowd.

Between Tuesday night and Saturday night I had my longest stretch of time away from the Open House in a long time—or maybe it just seems that way because I was there almost every other day for a week and a half prior. Saturday night, however, was our first English Speakers Group event of November, “Swinging Queerly,” in which we invited Shirley of the Tel Aviv Swing Club to teach a lesson in East Coast. It was really interesting to watch her teach because she didn’t teach it as East Coast, she taught it as six-count Lindy Hop, which actually makes a difference. I didn’t even realize before now that East Coast starts on a step-step, whereas Lindy (six-count or eight-count, whatever) starts on a rock-step. The moves also had different names; the inside-turn was a “window,” for some odd reason. I have no idea.

I spent a lot of the event running around—figuring out how to turn on the fan, finding tape so someone could tape her flip-flops to her shoes, helping Shirley, etc. I guess that’s why I lost track of time and the lesson went an hour and a half before Shirley realized people were getting tired and it was time to stop. We were supposed to have open dancing after the lesson, but that failed. People were just too tired. I think they had fun, though. They look like they were having fun:

Yes, I also spent a decent amount of time taking video–and stealing follows when Shirley was working with their leads (or vice versa). That’s how I got to dance once we had an odd number. (Before the last person came, I was just in the line.)

And that was that. When things ended I went to get malawach for the first time with Ahuva and Alexis, and then I went home. Game over.


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Queers, Beers, and Games

Tonight we had the first Jerusalem Open House English Speakers Group event planned by Jessica and me. (I don’t understand why we put “beers” in an event title and then tell people that they need to bring their own. How is that part of the event? Oh well; apparently it attracts people.) It was a lot of fun, thank goodness–the only rough spot was that both of us bought snacks, so there was way too much food and I ended up coming home with all four bags of generic Bamba.

I had been worried about the event for the past couple of days. I flyered at Hebrew University, but I don’t know the official procedure so my signs kept being torn down. Would people know about it? Would people want to come to a game night? But it all worked out. A bunch of us were there at 7:30, and we didn’t end up leaving until around eleven. I had some very good conversation, too. It’s so much easier to talk to people when we’re not squeezed into a room and just told to mingle!
The night has left me with such a pleasant feeling that I felt a need to write about it, but now that I sit down to do so I’m finding that I really have nothing to say. Maybe I’m just tired. It is midnight over here, after all.