Between Sodom and Eden: A Gay Journey Through Today's Changing Israel

Lee Walzer, Author
Lee Walzer, Author Columbia University Press $85 (368p) ISBN 978-0-231-11394-6
Reviewed on: 03/06/2000
Release date: 03/01/2000
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-231-11395-3
Hardcover - 325 pages - 978-0-231-50272-6
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If God didn't make Adam and Steve as well as Adam and Eve, somebody did--because they are certainly alive and well in modern-day Israel, along with their lesbian sisters. This engaging journalistic foray into everyday gay and lesbian life and culture in the Promised Land is brimming with surprising information and conclusions. Based on interviews with Israeli gay and lesbian activists, high school students, kibbutz members, teachers and legislators, as well as common citizens, Walzer, an American attorney and journalist, portrays a complex culture that--although deeply divided on many religious and political issues--is reconciling itself to, and even celebrating, gay life and sexuality. Walzer is best at describing the extremes of Israeli culture: the government has banned employment and military discrimination based on sexual orientation and gay issues are discussed in high schools, yet family life and reproduction are so entrenched in Jewish tradition that it remains difficult for many gay people to come out. Still, many of the gay people he interviews claim that Israelis are not homophobic, simply heterosexist. Walzer reads Talmudic law sensitively--in his view, the Hebrew bible condemns homosexual acts, not people--and places anti-gay religious laws in the broader context of social mores and teachings on sexuality. Walzer's observations on the differences between gay life in Israel and the U.S. (such as that Israelis are far more willing to accept gay people if they identify as individuals and not as part of a ""community"") lend his provocative study additional interest. (Apr.)
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