Orthodox rabbis in uproar over Israel's Eurovision sex-change diva

In a macho culture like Israel's - it is surprising. The Israeli representative at the 1998 Eurovision song contest in Birmingham next May will be Dana International, a transsexual who was picked for the role on Sunday night.

Having just failed to win the nomination last year, she will sing a song called "Diva", chosen over 14 other songs by a committee nominated by the Israeli Broadcasting Authority.

Dana International, born Yaron Cohen in Tel Aviv some 25 years ago, comes from a a traditional, working-class Yemenite-Jewish background and sings in Arabic as well as in Hebrew, French and English. Avoiding conscription into the army as an open homosexual when a teenager, Dana had a sex-change operation in London in 1993.

All this is unusual in Israel where musical culture is often derivative or old-fashioned, symbolised by the fact that the Eurovision song contest is still taken seriously.

"People in Israel don't know what drag is, they don't know how to appreciate it - it is a very primitive country sometimes," she told the Jerusalem Post.

The situation is perplexing for ultra-Orthodox rabbis who denounce ordinary female performers and now find Israel represented by a transsexual. One rabbi confused the issue further by saying that men could attend her live performances - so long as they knew Dana was really a man. She says she has faced little harassment, though there are parts of Jerusalem an Tel Aviv where a woman with bare arms will be spat at.

Voted female singer of the year by listeners to one Israeli radio station, Dana's career began seven years ago after she was discovered working in a show in Tel Aviv.

Some Israeli commentators see her success as a gimmick. One record reviewer describes Dana's work as "pseudo-provocative garbage". Others say that a gimmick could not have sustained her career for so long.

Danny Peled, manager of Army Radio's music department, was quoted as saying: "The kids don't really care if she is a boy or a girl - only the adults seem hung up on that. There is a real thirst for dance music among young people in Israel, in large part because they are now exposed to it on MTV and the like. The dance genre is just developing in Israel and Dana has made a huge impact on it."

Most of her songs are in Hebrew. However, as a Yemenite, she says: "I like to sing in Arabic. I like the language. I like the music. I like the instruments." Her manager claims that 500,000 cassettes of her music have been sold in Cairo alone.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower