In the early 1990s, Lee Walzer, a young American lawyer who liked to travel in Israel, started meeting Israeli gay activists at conferences and in bars on his many visits to the country. A longtime gay Jewish rights activist and follower of Israeli politics and culture, Walzer was intrigued by the often contradictory perception of gays and lesbians in a country that many American Jews consider their homeland.

By 1994, the media had turned its attention to gay issues: the Knesset, or Israeli government, had banned employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the military had repealed its historically anti-gay codes. But anti-gay sentiment was still a reality. In May of that year, the author and his spouse Kevin visited Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust museum, to attend a memorial service honoring the gays and lesbians who had died in the Holocaust. But the gathering was rudely interrupted: Angry demonstrators ran out of the crowd towards the service leaders, shouting that the service was a desecration to Yad Vashem, and that the gatherers deserved to die. Israeli police had to drag some of the demonstrators outside, where a group of Orthodox Jews was also protesting the service. The event rattled the Walzer-and sparked his curiosity.

"Between Sodom and Eden" traces Israeli's gay and lesbian community over the last decade, charting its progress in mainstream society over the past decade. As a gay person, a lover of Israeli culture, and a Jew, Walzer presents the issues as both an insider and as an outsider--an American looking in and not quite belonging. His vantage point is just one twist in a thoroughly fascinating, original read.
reviewed by Laura Pearlman

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