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A conversation with Hadass Ben-Ari, zine queenby simone • October 26 2008
Interview, Pop culture
26-year-old Hadass Ben-Ari was born in Beit Sha'an but left, with her family, for Montreal when she was eight, during the First Gulf War. Hadass returned to Israel in 2005 for a quarter-year internship at The Jerusalem Post (she majored in journalism at Concordia University), fell in love with Jerusalem and returned to live here in summer 2006, just as the second Second Lebanon War erupted. When things quieted down, Hadass founded Fallopian Falafel, Israel's only feminist zine, which published its first issue in early 2007.
For the uninitiated, can you please briefly explain what the riotgrrl movement is all about and where it stands today in Israel? The riotgrrl movement was started in Olympia, Washington, in the early 1990s, during the grunge era. It was a movement for women that started as sort of a DIY punk movement to get girls on stage, because there wasn't really a scene for that, for female punk performers. It then evolved into a wider feminist movement. It's known as third wave feminism. The first was the suffragette movement and the second was women's lib in the 1960s.
Riotgrrrl's focus is more on girl-love than man-hate. People think "Oh, you're a feminist, you must hate guys or be a lesbian." I don't and I'm not. When I say riotgrrl is about girl love it's not necessarily a romantic love but a movement for women supporting women as opposed to competing against one another.
When I came to Israel I realized there wasn't really a riotgrrl movement here. If there was, it was very small and underground and basically centered in and around Tel Aviv. It's still very underground here. I'm also very into the metal scene, which is more popular here but sometimes there is an overlap and the metal bands attract a riotgrrl crowd. Since I've been here, I've seen one riotgrrl event – it took place in Tel Aviv and was not publicized at all.
Why do you choose to publish Fallopian Falafel in English? My English writing is more fluent. It also appeals to a broader audience that way. I have a lot of foreign readers, both English speakers in Israel and readers from abroad.
Besides your online presence it seems that you still distribute your zine the good old fashion way - placing it in places where the counterculture hangs out. Where are your key points of distribution in Jerusalem? I used to give it out for free – in Nocturno, in the music store on Keren Hayesod, at the Pride Parade – but production costs were too high, and coming out of my own pocket, and I still had to eat, so now it's only free online. If you want the printed version, you have to pay for it. But a lot of the zine culture is about holding the actual zine in your hands, so we do still print. I often trade my zine for other zines.
Jerusalem is not exactly known for its sensitivity to feminist beliefs. What's it like promoting feminism is such a conservative city? I get a lot of interesting responses, even from the religious community. The zine even has some religious contributors. I try to use a lot of different perspectives and different points of view. I've found that people are actually pretty open-minded. That's more true of foreigners living here than native born Israelis though, because they're coming from backgrounds where they're exposed to multi-culturalism. I personally am not religious, but I respect religion. I try to be open-minded and respect other people's religiosity and religious beliefs.
There has been some opposition. I usually send out calls for submissions on janglo or CIWI, but I used to send them to Nefesh B'Nefesh's yahoo site as well, until the moderator refused to publish my posting because it contained the words fallopian and feminist and it was for an issue dealing with homosexuality.
I contacted the moderator and he said that while he personally was not offended by the post, he had to cater to the greater Nefesh B'Nefesh community, many of whom have different sensibilities. I was kind of angry and said, "What do you mean? You mean you're catering to people who are homophobic or sexist?"
Needless to say, I don't post there anymore.
How has your zine impacted Jerusalemites? Tell us about one reaction that a local had that surprised you. I once had a reaction from a woman who was older than most of our readers (the zine is most popular with foreign teenagers, 16- and 17-year-olds who are into the zine scene). This woman was 40 or 50 years old. She got a copy of the zine from her daughter who had been at the Pride Parade. This woman contacted me and told me she has always been a feminist and this magazine inspired her anew, that she was inspired to see that feminism is still alive and well.
I'm also always surprised when we get any sort of reaction from men, especially a positive reaction.
When you're not promoting feminism in Jerusalem, where do you like to hang out? Mostly at music gigs. I'm really into Coolooloosh, the Beit Avi Chai music scene and Tel Aviv bands that come to Jerusalem. I also like Hakatze on Shushan St. and Scream, a metal bar on King Solomon St. That's actually my favorite place to hang out, because that's the type of music I like the best. I'm not that into trance. I'm into metal. The heavier the better.
Picture of Fallopian Falafel Covers (top and bottom left) and Hadass Ben-Ari sittin' pretty courtesy of Hadass Ben Ari.
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