For a long time Hana Klein thought she was the only lesbian in Israel, and maybe in the whole world. She was born in 1951, grew up in Tel Aviv and at 11 realized that her feelings were a bit different from those of her girlfriends. But she didn’t know why. Klein says that in the Israel of the 1950s and ‘60s, “there were no words for it.”
The first hint that she wasn’t alone was at a kiosk selling porn magazines and newspapers; one journal caught her eye. “The cover photo was of two bare-breasted women touching each other, with the caption “Contemporary lesbians.” For the first time she realized that there was a word for what she was.
“People can’t imagine the feeling of something missing in conservative Israel at the time. The atmosphere was that there was nothing. For years I walked around in a desert …. Even when I learned what it was called, there was a feeling that nobody else was like me,” Klein says.
“Those were times without a computer, so you couldn’t Google things, there were no community organizations, there was no place to meet. I tried to bring up the subject with friends and see their reactions, and from them I realized that it wasn’t acceptable.”
Klein was one of the first activists in LGBTQ and feminist organizations in Israel. She started the country’s first organization for lesbians, Alef – an acronym for lesbian-feminist organization. She has often been called “Tel Aviv’s first lesbian.”