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Dana International - Transsexual singer Irks Rabbis - Artikel aus Planet Out vom 25.11.1997
TRANSSEXUAL SINGER IRKS RABBIS
by PlanetOut,
Tuesday, November 25, 1997

A selection committee appointed by the Israel Broadcasting Authority on November 24 chose male-to-female transsexual Dana International to represent the nation at the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest, to the dismay of Orthodox Jewish leaders of the far-right Shas Party. Selection Committee Chair Gil Samsonov said that Dana's song "Diva" was "far and away the best" of 33 entries considered, and believes her transsexual status might even be an edge in the contest Israel has lost so many times before. He said, "We should be seen as a liberal, free country that chooses songs on their merits, not on the basis of the body of the man or woman." Nonetheless the Shas Party's representative on the Israel Broadcasting Authority board, Gaby Butbul, said that he'll try to intervene to change the selection to what he called a "consensus" candidate. Dana's manager Ofer Nissim anticipated the opposition but said, "I believe the broadcasting authority will give us all the support we need."

Most vocal against Dana has been Shas Party Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Shlomo Ben-Izri, who believes that gender reassignment surgery is "worse than an act of sodomy." He said, "The Eurovision Song Contest interests me about as much as the weather in Antarctica. But as a son of the Jewish people this offends me. The choice is disgraceful for me as a Jew. The Jewish people have always been a light unto the nations. They will now be a darkness unto the nations. Everyone abroad will say: 'Look at those Jews and what they are sending to perform, some kind of crossbreed.' Dana is an abomination. Even in Sodom there was nothing like it."

Dana has been performing for seven years. She was born Yaron Cohen in Tel Aviv to a working-class Yemenite-Jewish family and underwent gender reassignment in 1993. She enjoys singing in Arabic as well as in Hebrew, French and English. Her manager claims her albums have sold a half-million copies in Cairo alone. She came close to representing Israel at this past year's Eurovision, her rendition of "Layla Tov Eropa" (Good Night, Europe) came in second at the 1995 Kdam contest, and at least one radio station's audience selected her as female singer of the year. She told the "Jerusalem Post" that, "People in Israel don't know what drag is, they don't know how to appreciate it -- it is a very primitive country sometimes."

This is not the first time that she has drawn the attention of Orthodox rabbis: previously they had solemnly determined that it would be all right for men to listen to her as long as they knew she was a "male;" the same rabbis believe it is improper for men to listen to singers who were born female.