Framework

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Israeli Orthodox Jew Shahar Hadar shops for women's shoes in downtown Tel Aviv for his next drag queen show. Hadar, a telemarketer by day, has taken the gay Orthodox struggle from the synagogue to the stage, beginning to perform as one of Israel's few religious drag queens. His drag persona is that of a rebbetzin, a female rabbinic advisor, a wholesome guise that stands out among the sarcastic and raunchy cast of characters on Israel'­s drag queen circuit.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Oded Balilty / Associated Press

Hadar prays during the mourning ritual of Tisha B'Av in July at the Western Wall.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Oded Balilty / Associated Press

Hadar shops for a dress for his next drag queen show.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Oded Balilty / Associated Press

Hadar's wigs and a dress hang in a dressing room just before his show at a gay club in Jerusalem in July.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Oded Balilty / Associated Press

Hadar shaves his beard as he prepares for a show in June at a drag queen school in downtown Tel Aviv.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Oded Balilty / Associated Press

Hadar has makeup applied as he prepares for a show in June at a drag queen school in downtown Tel Aviv.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Oded Balilty / Associated Press

Hadar gets dressed for the school's show.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Oded Balilty / Associated Press

Hadar gets ready to put on his red dress for a drag queen show in July at a gay club in Jerusalem.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Oded Balilty / Associated Press

Hadar performs on stage at the gay club in Jerusalem.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Oded Balilty / Associated Press

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Photo essay | Holy Land drag queen

By Oded Balilty

A week before the annual gay pride parade in Tel Aviv, I was looking for something to shoot other than the colorful procession that’s seen every other year.

I searched newspapers and websites related to the local gay community and found out about a drag queen school in the city’s gay center. I was invited to shoot backstage before the students’ first show when a man with a beard and skullcap showed up.

I watched him shave his beard and apply makeup, and that’s how I met Shahar. I decided I would follow him instead of shooting a story on the school. He talked about his personal life and life as a drag queen, and during several shoots over two months I was able to capture his story.

For me, this story shows that when you want to do something and you believe in it, nothing can stop you.

Oded Balilty is a photographer with the Associated Press.

1 Comment

  1. November 9, 2013, 9:07 am

    To me it mean that there is a very self-actualized, brave and religious Orthodox Gay Jew in Israel.

    By: mipela

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