Israelis In Drag

I had a Tel Aviv first this week. It reminded me of my past frolics in NY!

I went with a friend to my very first drag show in Tel Aviv. Yes, he said it would be for fashion purposes (and it was, they were very stylish! You’ll see what I mean…)

It wasn’t my first gay bar by any means, or my first gay bar in Tel Aviv for that matter. As we all know, the gay community in this cosmopolitan city is alive and thriving. So a friend whisked me away to the Tuesday night party at Evita, a gay bar on Yavne St. near Sderot Rothschild. They have a drag show every Tuesday night.

Aside from the style I picked up from the drag queens, it was also a stark lesson in Israeli culture. The ladies were mainly of Mizrachi (Eastern) descent. They sang children songs and patriotic songs that were popular with the Israeli crowd though there was a generation gap (most of the songs were from the 70s and the crowd was made up of mainly early twentysomethings) and there were one or two tributes to popular female singers of today, that if you didn’t know the singer, you wouldn’t have understood the costume, the joke, or the reference in appearance.

In America, the drag queens might look similar, but they would probably sing popular American rock or pop songs and they are often that much more flamboyant than these ladies, one of which was so beautiful I thought that she could pass for a real woman. None of them were transgender though, only dressed in drag.

There was also an appearance from Gila Goldstein, the very first drag queen in Israel. She later became a transgender in the Seventies and returned to Israel as a woman after a trip to Europe and is an icon in the gay community. Israel and an icon in the gay community. She’s currently 62 years old.

Gila in her prime

The drag queens were Tziona Patriot (her name is a play on words, it means Zion Patriot), Talula Bonet, and Dorothy Dut. Tziona has hosted many a gay pride parade and film festival in Israel.  She is well known throughout the gay community.

Tziona Patriot

Talula Bonet, originally Tal Kallai, is an actor and sometime DJ from Jerusalem.  Dorothy Dut is fairly new to the drag scene, but doing well.

Talula Bonet and Tal Kallai

The makeup on the girls was very bright and looked professional. When I asked my roommate,  a singer who once sang in a nightclub owned by a popular Israeli singer alongside some of the drag queens, she said they have been doing the drag queen act for a number of years. The friend who took me to Evita told me they spend hundreds on makeup and do all the makeup themselves.   I was quite impressed because if that’s the case, I think that each of them could have a cosmetics career!

Talula and Ziona dance with Gila Goldstein

Obviously, I don’t make my rounds with drag queens and so I don’t know much about what’s in style for a show, but what I did notice was there was a lot of bright, tight clothing and some tropic themes, which might be popular in a beach club in the Dominican Republic, but could also be popular in Israel as an ode to the climate.

Dorothy Dut as Sarit Hadad

Each of them made tributes to some of the most popular female singers in Israel including Shoshanna Damari, Sarit Hadad, and Ofra Haza.

All in all a great experience and friends are asking me to invite them to the next one!

Me with Drag Queen in Training Lotte Lowenstein


Tziona Patriot: Liran Levi

Gila Goldstein: Rahav Naor

All other pics taken by Simona Kogan and Lotte Lowenstein


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