Hannah Klein, dubbed ‘First Lesbian of Tel Aviv,’ has worked for years for the LGBT community, and her own biography is parallel to the history of the lesbian community in Israel. She was the only female representative on the Aguda Committee up until 1976, establishing the women’s department in the organization and was active in many other organizations. The list of her activities and achievements is very long.
Already at the age of 12, Klein knew who she was; she just couldn’t give it a name. Three years later, on her way to a Sheinkin Street kiosk to buy ice cream, she noticed a book -“Contemporary Lesbians” which had a picture of a woman with bare breasts pinching the nipple of a woman next to her. She breathed a sigh of relief.
“I knew it was me, I knew what to call it now,” she says. “It was very difficult. At that time even living in Tel Aviv was not easy. I was alone and I finally understood that I wasn’t the only one in the world. I felt that it was natural and that I was fine, but I was looking for a foothold to prove to myself that I wasn’t alone.”
Klein continued to feel alone even after 5 years of therapy in the Department of Youth Counseling of theTel Aviv municipality. This ended with her coming out of the closet and the disappointment in light of the hostile response of the therapist. She left treatment at the age of 21 and was left alone. “I told myself I didn’t know what she was thinking and what religious people think and what the law was and the people would say. I only knew that what I feel is real and it’s true and that’s it.”
In July 1975 the Aguda was established. Klein heard the news, but had trouble finding The organization. Eventually, she tracked down the address in the classifieds section in Yedioth Ahronot (daily paper), sent a letter and so it all began.
Ziva Eilot, who was the only woman among the founding board members of the Aguda, was also the first lesbian Klein met. “I was so happy. It was like air, I finally wasn’t alone. Ziva brought her partner and we were 3 and then 7, then 11 and then 17, and I was so happy. Finally I had oxygen, the world opened up, after all these years of just pain inside.”
After Eilot left the Aguda, Klein remains the only lesbian committee member. Together with another woman she founded the Women’s Circle of the Aguda which increased to 130 or so women, including representatives from offices in Jerusalem, Haifa and even Eilat. As an undergraduate in sociology and anthropology, Klein thought that the group of women lacked an ideology and that the ideology which was most appropriate for them was the feminist ideology. In 1977 they went to a feminist movement women’s event at the Nav’e Gallery on Ben Yehuda Street, and there, Hanna says, “history began to change.”
On November 17, 1977 the women held a meeting at the initiative of Klein and decided to leave the Aguda. “For 11 months we studied feminism and we wanted to do our thing without men. We wanted equality and we wanted it alone. We didn’t need them.”
She then went and founded Al”F – a lesbian feminist organization, and it lasted something like two and a half years, with meetings and studies in Klein’s living room.
In 1986, when Haya Shalom founded “CLAF” – Feminist Lesbian Community – she immediately recruited Klein as account manager for the organization and later treasurer.
In 1996 Klein volunteered at the headquarters of Michal, who was the first out lesbian who ran for a place on the list of the Meretz Party. Michal was elected in 1998 in second place on the Meretz Municipal Council of Tel Aviv-Jaffa and made history when she was elected to the City Council. Klein stayed with her until she sat in in the council in 2000.