Gay and Arab in Tel Aviv
If you follow my reviews you know that I am a gay Israeli/American and one of the founders of the gay liberation movement in Israel. You also probably know that I go out of my way to reviews films and books about LGBT life in Israel. “Oriented” is a film I have not yet had the opportunity to see but am hoping to receive a review screener soon so I can only share what I have heard or read about the film. Jake Witzenfeld’s documentary “Oriented” follows the lives of three friends from Palestine as they deal with their national and sexual identity in Tel Aviv, the largest and most pro-gay city in Israel.
Khader is a “Tel Aviv ‘Darling’ who was born into a prominent Muslim “Mafia” family. He is now living with David, his Jewish boyfriend. David is a local LGBT nightlife “impresario”. Khader faces conflicts by his hope and desire for a change in the situation that seems to be hopeless. Fadi is a Palestinian nationalist who faces guilty Jewish love. Naim feels that he must confront his family about his homosexuality. For all three there is a war surrounding them and their people. They are determined to bring about change and they have organized a group, “Qambuta”, “a non-violent cultural resistance movement that fights for gender and national equality”. The three men are very aware that what they are doing may not change the world but it certainly will help and does help to deal with the frustration of having to live with identities that are multi-faced.
The three have to navigate politics and the politics of sexuality and dating and many times they do this as war rages all around them. I know and understand what they are going through because there was a time when Israeli gay men suffered discrimination, persecution and even arrest. It was not that long ago when Israeli gay men decided that they had had enough and began to fight back and demand equal rights. We worked very, very hard aligning ourselves with liberal politicians, strikes and even battling with the Tel Aviv police force. I went to jail three times and at the same time was an employee of the government of the country Now that I am longer in Israel, I look back at those years and I realize had we not done what we did, nothing would changed and Tel Aviv and the rest country would have never been named of the best spots in the world for the LGBT community to visit and to live there.
Our three Arab/Israelis here are citizens of the State of Israel but because they are regarded by many as “the enemy”, they have a very hard time. Naim is on the verge of coming out to his family and it is really for him to explain the “freedom” he has in Tel Aviv that is in contrast to the life has lived in his parents’ small village. Khader’s Jewish partner wants to leave Israel for to move to Berlin and he is wrestling with why he feels he has to stay.
The focus of the film is the challenge to the idea that because one is Arab and gay, we see him as being repressed, or always “struggling”. It is interesting that there are still some places in Israel where gays will not go because of their fear of homophobia but it is certainly not like what it once was.
This is such an important film that actually destroys what some have called “pinkwashing”. But it also brings us a very serious subject for those who just want to be who they really are.