Tel Aviv’s Lesbian Nightlife Power Couple is Back (Working) Together

Ilana Shirazi and Dganit Baruchi were known for years as the queens of lesbian nightlife in Israel, and they were also a couple. Their parties, who were almost always thoughtful theme parties, ranged from huge pride parties through fundraising parties, parties with the best of our country’s female singers, women’s weddings and festivals abroad. Now, eight years after the breakup, they return to working together. And they are best friends again.

Ilana Shirazi served in the army for years. “Only at 22, when I had a serious boyfriend and my parents even pushed for a wedding, I met a Dutch volunteer who came to the base and I fell in love,” Shirazi recalls. “Her name was Seskiya, we were together for four years and I even lived with her in the Netherlands and worked on cheese production.” This romance ended due to big cultural gaps. “It was not easy,” Shirazi said, “and I was sure that it was a one-time affair, that I only fell in love with her and that I was not lesbian, and after the break up I went to a very smart psychologist and he had told me something I will never forget: You love exactly what I love, why do you fight it?”

Shirazi’s parents, who come from Iraq, were supportive from the first moment. She grew up on Sheinkin Street in Tel Aviv, and since then moved to an apartment in the city center and lived most of her life next door to her mother. Shirazi is the daughter of a bereaved family. Her big brother was killed during his army service when she was only 10. Her father died of what appeared to be heartbreak, not long after him. Ilana’s beloved mother died a few years ago.

With Deganit, however, things began a little differently and earlier. Baruchi grew up in Nahariya to Iranian parents. “My mother, of blessed memory, was very feminine. She always dressed me in skirts and made sure I wore very meticulous clothes, until she realized after my screams and protests that I did not like girls’ clothes.” So her mother, in the Nahariya of the 1970s, told her: “If you want to dress like a boy, let’s do it right.” Surprisingly, she took her to the store and bought her the best boys’ clothes, including soccer shoes. “Until I recieved my first period, I was really sure I was a boy. Then I realized that unfortunately I was not,” Baruchi declares.

At the age of 16, Baruchi already understood that she was lesbian. Despite the understanding and the recognition, she was constantly harrassed, even in the army. She joined the Nahal Brigade and worked in a kibbutz. .When Anat, who was in charge of the kibbutz’s army workers, approached her, she told her that she had recieved complaints that there was a lesbian there, and from here to there, they became a couple for a year.

The story of Ilana and Dganit’s acquaintance was coincidental and certainly surprising. Ilana was already a known producer of women’s parties, when Dganit, then a 19-year-old soldier from Nahariya, arrived on leave from the base for a Friday party organized by Ilana at the historic Tel Aviv club “Zman Amiti.” “My friend Orly laughed and told me that llana would never let me in because I don’t look like a lesbian. Of course, I went straight to see who was this tough Ilana woman. I smiled at her and she let me into the party. ”

For 15 years they lived in a close relationship, total loyalty, great friendship and joint work in the nightlife of the LGBT community. Eight years after the separation, they speak about it.

Deganit: “We split up a year after Ilana’s mother died. Since I was 15 I have been spiritual and interested in Kabbalah. I have studied healing and Reiki for years, and I have been involved in it until today. At the time before the break up I went through something, and I had a need burning in me, to reach my inner truth. As I felt closer to the world of Kabballah and mysticism, I deepened my studies and the gap between myself and Ilana grew bigger. We were simply not communicating on the same frequency. Our worldview really drew apart when I went deep into the study of Kabbalah. Ilana detested the fact that I was sucked in. I was in a learning group on Kabbalah, and although I thought I found a home there, I was disappointed. I understood that there are many teachers but no educators, apart from the knowledge and interest that drew me in. I was also drawn to deep depression. I went out of Ilana’s life with a bang. A total disconnection. We couldn’t be in touch.”

Apart from the piece of LGBT history in Israel that Shirazi is responsible for, she recently won the title of Tel Aviv’s Darling a few years ago, as well as the title of the women’s honoree in the community in 2016, in which the parade was dedicated to women. She began her work in the nightlife scene a long time ago, and never really stopped. And in case you didn’t know, she’s a total snooker champion and even gives private pool lessons if you’d like.

Recently, Deganit and her friend Linoy Grinberg thought together about throwing a pool party for women. The thoughts quickly moved into action. The two brought Ilana into the picture, and together they decided to produce a one-time invested party for women that takes place later this month. The unique party will close the summer and open the New Year. “As far as I am concerned, this is just the opening shot,” declares Baruchi, “and I will be happy to produce parties and events for the gay community in general and for women in particular.” Shirazi is a little more hesitant and does not make a commitment. “If special and unusual productions are on the agenda for women, I will be happy to take part in producing even after this party.”

In the years leading up to their break up, the two even started a process for a joint child through the sperm bank, but the process did not succeed and ended after five years of experience with an out-of-uterus pregnancy for Deganit, and with great pain and disappointment. “We have not given up on the dream of having kids, each of us apart, of course,” they declare. Deganit will be happy if someone enters her life who is already a mother, and llana will be happy to adopt a child but is willing to do so only within a relationship. “I was one of the recent protest organizers around the adoption storm,” Shirazi says. “Children just need a warm home and loving parents, and it doesn’t matter what their parents’ sexual orientation is.”