What does it mean to be young, Ethiopian, Israeli and gay? Recently to of the leaders of KALA an Israeli Ethiopian LGBT group dropped by the Be’chol Lashon offices to discuss their experiences and thoughts about identity. They were touring in the United States with A Wider Bridge to raise awareness of the unique challenges they face and their vision for the future.
Sara, who works with a youth movement, is one of the founders of KALA. Liel works with the police and has been with KALA almost from its start two years ago.
BL: Tell us a little about yourselves and your backgrounds
Liel: I came out when I was 18, when I was in my army service. There are no words in Amharic (Ethiopia’s language) for lesbian or homosexual; the only word is a curse that describes a man who wears women’s clothing, so it is hard to come out of the closet. My mom did not understand what I said. Now she understands, but she does not want to understand. We don’t talk about it. She came to Israel in 1991 in Operation Solomon. We don’t live with my father, so my mom is everything for me.
Sara: I’m 28 born and raised in Israel. My family came in 1984 in Operation Moses. I knew about myself and my sexual identity at 15. But I only came out at 20 during my military service.
BL: How did KALA get founded?
Sara: It was founded after I attended gay pride. We wanted to meet other people like me, LBGT Ethiopians. A friend introduced me to a friend, and we opened a secret Facebook page. We do events. We have meetings. We talk about what we want to do with KALA.