Nathan: ‘My parents still call me, even today, asking “so, what about a boyfriend?” I tell them, “listen, I have a boyfriend every day! Every day I have a new boyfriend”. And then the question is of course, “do you want to be alone?” And this is another reason why it is better to live in this country [Germany], where being alone is not the Mark of Cain.’
Sexual orientation and left-wing political affiliation often play significant roles in decisions to leave Israel. Queer Israelis question nationalist and heteronormative expectations regarding army service, monogamy, and procreation. A general despair over the current political situation and the collapse of democracy further motivate their departures and leave many feeling that they don’t belong to the Israeli national collective, while Berlin is frequently celebrated as a cosmopolitan and unassuming city where LGTB people can live in peace.
Hila Amit argues that queer Israeli emigrants, in their decision to depart, undermine Zionist ideology as well as change the obvious paths of resistance to Zionism. In stepping out of the territory of Israel, they avoid the Zionist demand to perform as strong, masculine courageous citizens. But the left-wing resistance to the regime is just as committed to a heroic ideal – the willingness to take part in often violent demonstrations and risk imprisonment or injury. Amit recognizes the vulnerability of the emigrants, who can no longer bear the hardship of the life offered to them in Israel. To be explored, then, is the political potential of passivity and unheroic conduct. As Adi, one of the participants of the study, puts it: ‘I’ve been an activist for 10 years. I can’t live there anymore. People come to Berlin to heal, that’s why some people call it the Berlin Sanatorium.’
The discussion builds on the contributions to A Queer Way Out: The Politics of Israeli Emigration (2018), an award-winning study by Hila Amit. The evening presents an opportunity to hear both from the author and the participants of the study and hence the rare chance to discuss the product of a long-term research project with the subjects of the research themselves.
Hila Amit is a writer, independent scholar, and Hebrew teacher. Her research focuses on political activism, queer kinship, national belonging, and diasporic communities.
Ruth Preser teaches at the University of Haifa and is a co-founder of the Haifa Feminist Institute. She is a former ICI Fellow.
Yossi Bartal was born and raised in Jerusalem and has been living in Berlin for 11 years. He studies musicology and gender studies and writes extensively in Hebrew, German, and English about politics, music, and culture.
Gil Kremmer was born and raised in Israel. She fell in love with Berlin during a backpacking trip through Europe. Works as a tour guide and as a DJ and lives with her wife and young kid in Berlin.
An ICI Event organized by Hila Amit and Claudia Peppel, in cooperation with the Jewish Museum Berlin
The event, like all events at the ICI Berlin, is open to the public, free of charge. The audience is presumed to consent to a possible recording on the part of the ICI Berlin. If you would like to attend the event yet might require assistance, please contact Event Management.
Image credit © Naomi Safran Hon