1990s: The First Gay Kiss on Israeli TV

He was there on the screen the first time a kiss between two men was broadcast on Israeli television – and says that a number of TV executives prevented the full broadcast of the scene. Uri Banai recalled the role of Iggy from “Florentine.”

Uri Banai carries an extra heavy responsibility on his shoulders: the first homosexual kiss on Israeli television. It happened in the legendary television series “Florentine,”when he played Iggy, who was the boyfriend of Tomer (played by Avshalom Pollak). “I remember that the managers asked not to screen the kiss in full. We had to fade out the shot; this was the only way they agreed to air it,” Banai recalled in a new Israeli interview.

The series, which aired between 1997-2001 on Channel 2, followed a bunch of young people who lived in the hip Florentine neighborhood in Tel Aviv. Banai, who played Iggy the baker, talked about the reaction he received after being cast as a homosexual. “People told me not to take the role because the image will stick to me and I wouldn’t get other roles because of it.”

Were you afraid?

“Not really, because I like roles that are far away from who I am, roles that will challenge me. And I’m certainly not the first straight guy who played a gay character. I didn’t experience insults on the street or things like that.”

Since then, more than 15 years have passed and 46-year-old Banai is now married for a second time and looks forward to his third child at any moment. But it seems that the series goes with him to this day. “I am pleased that today ‘Florentine’ is engraved in people’s memories. People talk to me about it until today.”

What did “Florentine” do for your career?

“The show promoted my career a lot, and I got many roles thanks to it. This series was groundbreaking concerning gay issues on TV. Eytan Fox, who is a film director, came to TV and it was the beginning of Channel 2. I had fun.”