Shock at gay film shown to teenagers

By Marcus Dysch, May 14, 2009
Ohad Knoller and Yehuda Levi in the film, an Israeli Brokeback Mountain

Ohad Knoller and Yehuda Levi in the film, an Israeli Brokeback Mountain

A feature film about gay IDF soldiers has been screened to a group of teenagers preparing for a Liberal Judaism-organised tour of Israel.

Parents said the children were shocked when Yossi and Jagger, described as an “Israeli Brokeback Mountain”, was broadcast at a sleep-over event last week.

The youngsters had been meeting at the organisation’s headquarters in central London for the first time ahead of their LJY Netzer trip in July and August, for a pre-tour orientation session.

Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism, which sanctions commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples, said no child had been forced to watch the film and there was “no hidden motive to re-educate people about their sexual preferences”.

The movie concentrates on two officers stationed alone at an isolated post on the Israel-Lebanon border. They seek solace from the conflict by conducting a gay love affair.

In one scene the men are shown training in a snowy field. They tumble to the ground and Yossi lies on top of Jagger, who asks: “Is this rape, sir?”

Yossi responds: “I’m an animal.”

The soldiers then undress each other and kiss passionately. They also speak explicitly about gay sex acts.

Following the film’s release in 2002, it received a 15 certificate in the UK, won numerous awards at international film festivals and was a box office hit in Israel.

One father, from south west London, said his daughter had been shocked by the “totally inappropriate” broadcast.

“They were told there was a choice of films. Although they were told what it was about, the children had not seen Brokeback Mountain so they didn’t understand. I haven’t got the faintest clue why they were shown it,” he said.

“We’re not homophobic at all. It’s Liberal Judaism, so we expect them to have liberal values, but this was the first meeting and it appears they are already trying to peddle those values to our children. On the parents’ evening, we were told they’d be discussing vegetarianism.”

The man, not named to protect his daughter’s identity, has written to Rabbi Rich seeking assurances that “no further such inappropriate material will be used during the tour”.

He discovered that his niece had previously been shown the film two years ago before her own LJY trip to Israel.

Rabbi Rich said the content of the film had been explained to the teenagers and none had expressed “shock or concern” during its showing. “Young people need to see films that challenge them. Perhaps the parents concerned come from a different generation,” he said.

“If the British Board of Film Classification considers the film as suitable for people aged 15 and over, then my youth workers are entitled to show it. Of course parents may not always agree and we are always happy to listen to their concerns.”

The other film offered to the teens was Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi, about a boy who plays the role of peacemaker in his chaotic family.

Last updated: 11:25am, May 14 2009