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.”
There’s a limit to what any one person can accomplish in her time on earth. Marcia Freedman managed to blow right past the limit and just kept going.
Pioneering feminist, LGBTQ activist, Knesset member, author and co-founder of an esteemed Middle East peace organization, Marcia Freedman died Sept. 21 in Berkeley. She was 83.
“She was quiet and wise,” said Janis Plotkin, who decades ago recruited Freedman to serve on the board of the S.F. Jewish Film Festival. “She was a little woman but a giant in terms of intellect, kindness, thoughtfulness and her strategic approach to problem-solving.”
Freedman’s social and political activism took many forms. Much of her work centered on Israeli politics and seeking to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians. She argued for a two-state solution long before it became a stated policy objective. As a young olah (immigrant) and member of Knesset, the state of Israel’s legislature, she also fostered groundbreaking women’s rights legislation, going toe to toe with her misogynist male colleagues.
On 1 August 2021 Listening2Lesbians provided submissions in response to the following from the Commission on the Status of Women:
“Any individual, non-governmental organization, group or network may submit communications (complaints/appeals/petitions) to the Commission on the Status of Women containing information relating to alleged violations of human rights that affect the status of women in any country in the world. The Commission on the Status of Women considers such communications as part of its annual programme of work in order to identify emerging trends and patterns of injustice and discriminatory practices against women for purposes of policy formulation and development of strategies for the promotion of gender equality.”
Information was provided to the UN on incidents dating back approximately 2.5 years across the 57 countries we have reported on in that time.
Legal, social and familial punishment of lesbians for failing to conform with the expectations imposed on women illuminates the status of women around the world. Homosexuality is understood to be a breach of sex-based expectations. Strictly enforced sex roles are accompanied by increased consequences for those who break them, individually or collectively. Lesbians, or women read as lesbians, are doubly punishable for their non-conformity, both overt and inferred.
Listening2Lesbians is not an expert on these countries and provided this information to augment and support the information provided by women from individual communities. We can only provide information on cases we have been able to locate and based our submissions solely around the available facts. Please note that we welcome corrections and updates.
We are painfully aware of the many communities not represented.
Anyone with information on missing communities is invited to contact us with information on reporting violence and discrimination against lesbians in their community.
A pair of religious lesbians settled in Rehavia, one of the most respectable areas of Jerusalem. However, on May 28, the women found a leaflet attached to their car with curses and threats. It stated that people like them did not have the right to live in such an area and added that “Lesbianism = perversion.”
Пара религиозных лесбиянок поселилась в Рехавии, одном из самых респектабельных районов Иерусалима. Однако 28 мая женщины нашли прикрепленную к их автомобилю листовку с ругательствами и угрозами. Там было написано, что такие люди не имеют право жить в таком районе. И добавлено: «Лесбиянство=извращение».
Yael Levi-Hazan was a lecturer, researcher and translator, a well-known figure in academia and in the LGBT community. She had lived in Be’er Sheva since 1998 and was one of the community’s founders in the southern part of the country. The home she shared with her partner, social worker and therapist Omra Levi-Hazan, was a magnet for every LGBT person who moved to the Negev and was seeking an adoptive family.
In October 2017, the couple moved to a new house in Be’er Sheva with their son, Ma’ayan, to whom Yael had given birth three-and-a-half years earlier. At the end of that month, Omra gave birth to their daughter, Nuri. On the night between November 30 and December 1, just five weeks after Nuri’s birth, Yael, 39, was killed in a car crash on Highway 431, while she was on the way to her mother’s house, in Tel Aviv. Omra was left with two small children and without the woman who had been her partner for the previous decade.
Israel’s Interior Ministry has been making retroactive changes to birth certificates issued to children born to lesbian couples, deleting the name of the non-biological mother. This was discovered when couples who obtained new copies of birth certificates found that the documents were different from those already in their possession.
The Central District Court decided on Tuesday to give more rights to lesbian couples who want to expand their families, ruling that the wife of the biological mother will also be considered the child’s parent from the moment of birth. This followed a legal struggle by eight lesbian couples who had to endure difficulties stemming from lack of their recognition as their children’s parents.
Elam, who is representing Amponsah together with attorney Nitzan Ilani, said, “Now it is clear that the great suffering that Mavis endured from the Population Authority, including illegal incarceration of many months, and major legal expenses, was unnecessary. We asked two years ago to interview Mavis in her own language, as is required by court rulings and the procedures of the Authority itself. But the Authority refused. Thus it is operating against the law and forced us to appeal to the Appeals Tribunal just to compel the Authority, two years later, to act according to the law.”