Palestinian Queers Find The Party—And A Little Freedom—In Israel

In south Tel Aviv, hundreds of gays and lesbians gather to party, gossip and dance. But they’re not Israelis—they’re Palestinians, enjoying a temporary ceasefire at the monthly Palestinian Queer Party. First organized by the group alQaws nearly 20 years ago, the gatherings allow LGBT Palestinians to escape judgment from both Israelis and their own countrymen.

In some ways the nights aren’t all that different from gay clubs around the world—people flirting, drag queens reading, pop music blaring. It’s a safe space where the attendees can briefly forget their worries. But as the Times of Israel‘s Michal Shmulovich reports, safe space is a relative term:

One of the drag queens yelled at me to stop photographing — it could be dangerous for them if someone sees the pictures, I was told, because many of those at the party are still in the closet.In fact, a few people I met did not want to tell me their names or where they were from, or any detail that could link them to the fact that they were at the party. Hence, the names of people interviewed for this article have been changed to protect their identities, and the photos carefully selected.

The party is an anonymous safe haven. And that’s why it’s such a hit.

Despite the need for secrecy, a number of partygoers opened up to Shmulovich, speaking about their double identities, sneaking across the border and their plans for the future. Many expect they’ll marry women and just “step out” on the side.

Karim, the fourth roommate, an outgoing nursing student from Akko with excellent English, chimed in, saying that he intends to marry a woman as well.

He said he used to have girlfriends, and that maybe he’ll marry a girl who is also a lesbian so they can help each other. “I’m gay, but I don’t want a serious relationship with a man anyway!” he joked, making light of his single status.

“Plus, I like women,” added Karim. He’ll marry, he said, so long as he can have fun. Fun, in this case, being homosexual encounters. I asked him if he would sleep with a woman, and he said that he hadn’t yet, but that he would.

Photo: Habibi

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  • Matt

    Thank you, Israel, for being the only country in the Middle East that is safe for gays to be proud of themselves relatively openly. May the other countries in the region allow the same same rights soon.

  • cam

    the gatherings allow LGBT Palestinians to escape judgment from both Israelis and their own countrymen.””

    Yes, by all means, lets just dive into the absurdity of claiming that the Isreali’s are part of their problem, when they are in fact having this event in Isreal because it would be dangerous for them to have it in Palestine. The fact that they can claim asylum in ISreal, and that anti gay violence carries criminal penalties there, and that foreign gay marriages are recognized as are gay adoptions…yeah, I can see why you added that part in. (Eye Roll)

    And it isn’t “Judgement” they are escaping from their own countrymen, it is arrest, torture, and sometimes murder.

  • CBRad

    @Matt: Re. other countries in the region, I don’t hold much hope…for a WHILE anyway. I DO hope so though. And I know every country is different, but do you know a woman in Saudi Arabia is actually on trial now for putting a witchcraft “spell” on a girl ? If convicted she could be the third person beheaded for witchcraft in the last two years. When we’re talking about such primitive insanity…

  • J

    Are these gays Palestinian-Palestinian? Because there are indigenous Palestinians of Israel,you know.Palestinians are indigenous to Israel.Not all Palestinians were driven out of Israel.

  • J Stratford


    The one person they quoted as a Palestinian is an Arab Israeli from Akko. So he did not have to cross the border.

  • B

    No. 5 · J Stratford wrote, “@J: The one person they quoted as a Palestinian is an Arab Israeli from Akko. So he did not have to cross the border.”

    The ones (if any) who did cross the border probably thought twice before giving out any information that might identify them.

  • Elie Wafi

    For your info, Israel is not the only country in the Middle East where gays are allowed to party. Lebanon has a vibrant gay scene where gays party, mingle, flirt,…as much as they want. Many gays are also out and respected members of community.
    I so hate when gays are used to justify Israeli occupation and clean Israel’s dirty hands. Well my dears, no matter how sinister the situation of gays is in the Middle East, it doesn’t justify a bit what Israel is doing as state to Palestinians and to other Arab countries.

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