Author Archives: Amit Schwalb

Amit Schwalb

About Amit Schwalb

Amit is an eccentric rabble-rouser from the Hudson Valley of New York. He has an obsession with ecology & a burgeoning rattail, & is trying to put shivyon erech ha'adam (the equality of human value) at the center of his life. At the moment, Amit is living in the Negev desert of Israel where he volunteers on a family farm.

Queer, Trans*, and In Israel

Living in Israel, for me, meant mastering the art of feigning ignorance. “Ani lo mevin, ani lo mevin. Rak midaber englit v sfardit,” I would often say. “I don’t understand, I don’t understand. I only speak English and Spanish.”

But I always knew exactly what the stranger in the kibbutz cafeteria or the shop-owner in the shuk or the security guard by the bathroom was saying as he chuckled to himself and asked, “Atah ben o bat?” with eyebrows raised. His Hebrew translates to, “Are you a boy or a girl?” but really what he’s getting at is, “Come on, really?” He’s reminding me that I am a puzzle to be figured out for his amusement, and that because I am a puzzle (read: not a human), it is A-OK to ask me rude questions.

Creative Common/David Weinberger

Creative Common/David Weinberger

Throughout my stay in Israel, strangers and friends alike would ask me this question in an array of rude ways. And though I often felt hurt and disappointed by the ease with which those around me seemed to prioritize a few laughs and quick satiation of their curiosities over my well-being, as I look back at my stint in Israel, it’s difficult for me to blame these perpetrators. As far as I, someone raised in America who lived in Israel for only six months and is and was far from culturally integrated into Israeli society, can tell, gender separation is the law of the land of Israel; it’s as Israeli as hummus or yelling. Continue reading

Posted on July 5, 2013

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