Thursday, November 3, 2011

Being Gay in Israel

“Is it just destiny
Or is it just a game
In my mind, Sharona?”
The Knack

At the Robin Hass Birky Women’s Studies Room in IUN’s Savannah Center I heard two people talk on the subject of “Being Gay in Israel.” They were with a group called Hoshen, which is also the name of a sacred Hebrew breastplate and a word derived from the Hebrew word for beautiful. On the group website I learned that Hoshen is the Hebrew acronym for "Education and Change" and the education center of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) community in Israel. Israeli laws are evidently very tolerant toward gays except regarding marriage, which is governed by religious precepts and even discriminates against Jews marrying non-Jews. Someone noted that Tel Aviv is the third most popular gay party town, right behind San Francisco and Bangkok. One speaker, Irit Tzvelli, mentioned that the group works with schools and even does workshops with kindergarten teachers to be more sensitive toward kids with same-sex parents. Irit said she came out of the closet around age 24 and that her mother took it OK except that when she subsequently dated a guy, the mother was really hoping that she’d get married and have children so she wouldn’t be lonely when she got older. She subsequently bonded with another lesbian, but they have three kids via adoption and in vitro fertilization, so the old lady is OK with the situation. Several people from Temple Israel were there, including Rabbi Halpern and Robin Rich. I talked to one guy who was a History major in the early 1970s and took all of Ron Cohen’s courses.

After the talk Anne Balay, a student named Christine, and I had drinks at TGIF in Merrillville. Having recently moved from Hyde Park to Miller, Anne seemed unfamiliar with the commercial district along Route 30. Both she and Christine were teenagers during the 1980s, and we ended up talking about music and movies from that era. It seems like they were hot for some of the same women celebrities that I had found sexy, such as Joan Jett and Debra Winger. Coincidentally, one of Debra’s first movies was “Thank God It’s Friday,” the name of the restaurant we were at. I told them I loved Winger in “Reality Bites,” especially the scene in Seven/Eleven when they dance to “My Sharona.” I offered to loan Anne my “Reality Bites” soundtrack CD, which contains songs by Lenny Kravitz (“Spinning Around Over You”). Dinosaur, Jr. (“Turnip Farm”), and Squeeze (“Tempted”).

I’ve been asked by the director of IUN’s Center for Urban and Regional Excellence to talk about Gary history to a group of around a dozen high school students who are involved in an urban renewal project. For my trouble I’ll get to eat pizza. I said yes.

The Engineers bowled a team that was so good they had to give us over 200 pins handicap. In the first game, thanks to John Bulot rolling a 231, the Engineers beat them by over 160 pins.

Ron Cohen was in the Archives because, like me, he was going to a luncheon for IUN faculty who had published a book within the last two years. He informed the campus that Gary native and Nobel laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz addressed the Occupy Wall Street protestors, telling them “"You are right to be indignant. The fact is that the system is not working right. It is not right that we have so many people without jobs when we have so many needs that we have to fulfill. It's not right that we are throwing people out of their houses when we have so many homeless people. Our financial markets have an important role to play. They're supposed to allocate capital, manage risks. We are bearing the costs of their misdeeds. There's a system where we've socialized losses and privatized gains. That's not capitalism; that's not a market economy. That's a distorted economy, and if we continue with that, we won't succeed in growing, and we won't succeed in creating a just society."

At the luncheon I sat next to mathematician Stela Pudar-Hozo and Health and Human Services director Pat Bankston. Pat mentioned seeing former chancellor Peggy Elliott at a charity function for Methodist Hospitals and that she is presently working in Texas. There’s evidently an index of retired university officials who can offer their services to fill in at universities that need interim administrators. Pat reported that she looked great and was as vivacious as ever. Pat talked about running unsuccessfully as a Republican for Porter County Commissioner. I told him that one local Republican I could vote for was State Senator Ed Charbonneau, who served with me on the Gary Centennial Committee. Mark Hoyert heard me and feigned shock that I’d vote Republican. I told him the last Republican I voted for other than locally was Pennsylvania Senator Hugh Scott in 1968, and I came to regret it when in 1972 he called George McGovern the Triple-A candidate for abortion, amnesty and acid. Disgusting. The last one he voted for was Maryland Senator Charles “Mac” Mathias, who clashed frequently with Nixon.

Eva Mendietta showed me the cover of the Spanish language version of her book about Catalina de Erauso, a former nun who posed as a man and had a swashbuckling military career during the seventeenth century. The shot was taken in the interior of the old, abandoned City Methodist Church.

Following the luncheon sculptor Neil Goodman, recipient of the 2011 outstanding scholar award, gave an informative lecture based largely on the pieces he did for IUN’s sculpture garden. Chris Young told me that two of his students who are giving a paper in two weeks on the Elbert H. Gary statue and the Michael Jackson monument want to interview me tomorrow or Monday.

I got a call from Ray and Trish Arredondo from Arizona State University, where they had given a talk to students who had been assigned “Maria’s Journey.” They were having lunch with old friend and co-editor of “Forging a Community” Ed Escobar. Small world. Ed filled me in on how his family is doing and invited us to visit them. The last time I saw him was in Indianapolis when we were on a panel together at a history conference. Ray and Trish said their talk went very well.

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