A few months later, in 2010, Hadar mustered up the nerve to march in Tel Aviv’s gay pride parade. When he returned home that Sabbath eve, he finally told his mother he was gay.
“I thought it would be the blackest day in my life,” Hadar said, but she accepted him.
As a practicing Orthodox Jew, it has not been easy for Hadar to integrate into mainstream gay life. He used to tuck his shoulder-length religious side locks under a cap to fit in at bars. Eventually, he sheared his side locks and trimmed his beard to thin stubble to increase his luck on the dating scene.
He is still looking for love, but this year, Hadar found acceptance and self-expression at Drag Yourself, a Tel Aviv school offering 10-month courses for budding drag performers. Students learn how to teeter on high heels, apply false eyelashes and fashion their own drag personas. Hadar, still a beginner, graduates next month.
The drag school, much like Israel’s gay community itself, offers a rare opportunity for Israelis to interact with others from disparate and sometimes warring sectors of society.
The school may be the only place where a Jewish settler, a lapsed ultra-Orthodox Jew, an Arab-Israeli and Israeli soldiers have stuffed their bras together.
Of all the students in his class, Hadar was the only one to show up wearing a yarmulke.
“I think it’s fabulous,” said Gil Naveh, a veteran Israeli drag queen and director of the school, as he painted Hadar’s lips red before his midnight debut at a Jerusalem gay bar. “He stays true to who he is.”