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Shelly Oria’s ‘New York 1, Tel Aviv 0’: Book Review

BY GARTH GREENWELL

Disorientation afflicts nearly all of the characters in Shelly Oria’s nimble and disarmingly moving debut collection of stories. Many of them are (like Oria herself) Israeli immigrants in New York City, navigating multiple cultures and languages; others find themselves in worlds where the usual rules (of weather, say, or time) break down; all of them are bewildered by desire.

Newyork1telaviv0_bThe narrator of the title story has come to the United States after finishing her military service, because “staying in Tel Aviv meant starting my life,” and “It’s a scary thing, starting your life.” As is true throughout the collection, Oria is excellent in detailing how the texture of daily life differs in the two countries: “When I first moved to New York, I kept opening my purse every time I entered a building, before realizing that there was no security guard. And every time I felt relieved, and every time I felt orphaned, and every time I felt surprised at both.”

The book’s title comes from her attempt to keep score of the advantages and disadvantages of her two cities. She never gets very far: “I forget to keep track, and I have to start counting all over again every time.” She meditates on the strangeness of Central Park, “the idea of having a designated area for greenery”: “Tel Aviv isn’t carefully planned like that—trees often choose their own location, and most streets stretch in unpredictable directions, creating a pattern of impulse.”

What’s true of the streets of Tel Aviv is also true of the magnetic men and (more often) women that Oria’s protagonists can’t fully know or possess, and many of the stories are haunted by infidelity. In “This Way I Don’t Have to Be,” a woman is addicted to sleeping with married men. She watches them during sex for the moment they imagine the possibilities they’ve left unlived, when “their entire lives turn to air,” an unsettled state of longing we sense the narrator craves for herself.

In “None the Wiser,” a sly, acid, wonderful story about jealousy and age and grief, a woman’s own desires gradually become clear as she gossips about her neighbors. And in one of the collection’s standout stories, “The Disneyland of Albany,” Avner, an Israeli artist who has left his family behind to seek his career in America, discovers his wife’s infidelity from stray remarks his young daughter makes during a visit.

In the collection’s final story, which might also be its finest, “Phonetic Masterpieces of Absurdity,” the book’s preoccupation with erotic disappointment combines powerfully with one of Oria’s other major themes, the tragedies and absurdities of ongoing conflict in the Middle East—a conflict that her characters can never fully escape, at home or abroad.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Gay Surrogacy Bill Passes First Reading In Israel's Knesset

Yael_german

Israel’s surrogacy bill, which aims to grant same-sex couples the right to have children via surrogates, passed its first reading through the Knesset yesterday, reports Pink News.

Although first submitted by Health Minister Yael German, the bill stalled in March following an appeal by housing minister Uri Ariel who argued that the proposed legislation creates “moral and ethical” questions.

However, the bill has now passed its first reading with a majority vote.

German said that the bill “is about the principle of equality, regardless of one’s sexual orientation or the composition of the family unit.”

However, Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism said that the bill is “meant to destroy the nature of family as we know it.”

Nissim Ze'ev of ultra-orthodox party Shas added:

“This is a corrupt bill and only corrupt [politicians] can support it. We are treating the import and export of babies as if we were dealing with frozen meat. This bill is morally depraved.”

In 2008, Ze'ev suggested that gay people belong in rehab along with alcoholics and drug addicts.


Far-Right Activist Walid Shoebat: ISIS Promoting The 'Homosexual Agenda' - VIDEO

Walid shoebat

Walid Shoebat, a Palestinian American who converted from Islam and a former Muslim Brotherhood member, has claimed that ISIS is promoting the “homosexual agenda” by raping men and using recordings to blackmail them, reports Right Wing Watch.

Shoebat was writing on BarbWire, the virulently homophobic website belonging to anti-gay wingnut Matt Barber.

6a00d8341c730253ef01b8d070687c970c-800wiReferring to a documentary broadcast on August 27th on the Kurdish station STERK TV in which ISIS members claim that the group has been raping and gang raping men in a ceremony it describes as "marriage” and using the footage to force them to join the terrorist group, Shoebat inexplicably states that the terrorist group’s use of rape as a weapon “is truly the manifestation of the purest form of the homosexual agenda.”

Oddly referring to “human rights” to show that rapes and gang rapes are used “to assassinate [victims] while they are still alive”, Shoebat of course makes no coherent argument - in fact no argument at all - to back up his ridiculous, inflammatory and vile opinions connecting homosexuality with rape.

Watch a disturbing clip of the documentary in which an Iraqi official interrogates an ISIS terrorist about the use of rape as a recruitment tool, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Far-Right Activist Walid Shoebat: ISIS Promoting The 'Homosexual Agenda' - VIDEO" »


Israeli Gay Club Promoter Criticized for Parody Image of ISIS Beheading

Drek

An Israeli gay event promoter has sparked outrage for publicizing a party using an ISIS-inspired photo shoot, The Independent reports:

Dreck, which holds events around Tel Aviv, used pictures imitating the beheading videos showing the murders of David Haines, James Foley and Steven Sotloff ahead of a club night on Friday.

One image shows a man in a desert kneeling in the sand with a black-clad man behind him with his hand on his shoulder.

The poster has the “black flag” of Isis in the top left hand corner and text running below in the style of Isis’ brutal propaganda videos.

Drek2A second image [pictured right], which was more heavily circulated, featured a scantily clad man flying a black flag symbolic of ISIS. 

The Guardian adds:

The Israeli news website Ynet, which reprinted the photos, said the imagery had provoked an angry reaction on Drek’s Facebook page. “Disgusting! Getting a laugh off of the murder of innocent victims,” wrote one.

On its Facebook page, Drek wrote that after Isis’s rise in the region, “we at Drek have decided to give in to sharia law and cheer the stubborn Daesh”, using the Arab acronym for the group. The use of “stubborn” was a play on words in Hebrew connected to beheading, Ynet said, as it can be written as “hard-necked”.

Amiri Kalman, one of Drek’s founders, told the website that the club night itself had not had an Isis theme. He said: “We are trying to react to current events. We have been doing it for a number of years. But we reject violence in any form and that includes the videos intended to scare the world. Therefore we also refuse to participate with this fear and refuse to become hysterical. This is satire, and our way of showing our contempt of them and their videos.”


A Look at the Invisible Lives of Gay Palestinians In Israel

In a fascinating piece over at The Daily Beast, Itay Hod looks at the the unique trials that gay Palestinians must face in Israel.

Many of these men are forced to deal with opposition from both sides - from their Palestinian families who feel"dishonored" for having a gay family member and from Israeli security forces for being Palestinian. 

Writes Hod:

Israel-mapIt’s hard to say how many gay Palestinians live and work in Israel. There are no studies on the matter, not that it would help. “When you’re in survival mode, it takes over,” said Anat Ben-Dor of the Refugee Rights Clinic at the Tel Aviv University Law Faculty. “In this case, a big part of that survival is hiding.”

The ones who’ve managed to elude authorities are mostly from the West Bank. Few, if any, are from Gaza, partly because of the blockade and partly because Hamas has pushed gays even deeper into the closet. So far no gay Palestinian has ever been granted asylum in Israel. In fact Palestinians, gay or straight, are barred from even applying for refugee status in Israel. [...]

But experts say even if there was a way for them to apply, many can’t. “To get help, gay Palestinians have to get through incredible hurdles,” said Ben-Dor. “They have to meet Israelis or other Palestinians they trust enough to confide that they’re both gay and living in the country illegally. That person has to then be willing and able to find the right organization that could direct them to the appropriate lawyers, and even then, there is no chance of getting protection against deportation back to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Check out the full article HERE


Israel Will Now Allow Jews To Immigrate, Gain Citizenship With Non-Jewish Same-Sex Spouses

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 8.35.36 AMIsraeli interior minister Gideon Saar [pictured] gave word on Tuesday that immigration authorities should not distinguish between same-sex and opposite-sex couples when granting citizenship. The new allowance amends a previous law allowing Jews to immigrate to Israel along with a non-Jewish relative/spouse.

USA Today reports:

In a few cases in recent years, Israel only naturalized non-Jewish same-sex spouses of Jews following threats of Supreme Court petitions, says Israeli immigration attorney Nicole Maor.

Israel does not permit gays to marry in the country, but recognizes same-sex marriages if they were performed legally abroad. 

Despite its same-sex marriage laws, Israel can add this as further evidence of its generally supportive legislation about LGBT-identified people. Along with recognition of citizenship, the Israeli Supreme Court grants same-sex couples inheritance and survivors' benefits, among other rights.


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