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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Bar is center of LGBT nightlife
SPECIAL ON ISRAEL
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2012-04-11

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JERUSALEM—Monday nights here at Mikveh Bar are quite a drag—the drag show, that is. About 200 people cram the small LGBT bar for what has become a local drag-night tradition.

This is the largest local LGBT bar, which features a small dance floor. It was the city's lone LGBT bar for several months until a second bar opened earlier this year.

"In the old days, a mikveh was a place for gay men to meet … and have a look," said Yaron Gal, one of three owners of Mikveh Bar—and its only gay owner. " [ The term mikveh ] is semi-homoerotic, although it's [ also ] very, very religious.

"The mikveh also, in the old days, was the place to get the latest news—and that's what we wanted to create, a place for people to gather and just be updated."

Mikveh had about 300 people attend its opening party last November, but most nights the club caps at 200.

"When I moved to Jerusalem six years ago, there was one gay bar," said Gal, 29. "When that bar closed about four years ago, it eventually re-opened as a place for rock bands to perform, though it still had the Monday night drag shows."

Mikveh Bar officially opened late last November.

"For the past four years, there were LGBTQ parties around town—at different bars, clubs, elsewhere. You could find at least one party every week. Now, there are more," Gal said. "One thing unique about this bar is, it attracts all crowds—orthodox Jews, Palestinians, lesbians, gays, bi-sexual and transgender. All come together."

In addition, there are straight regulars on Mondays for the drag show, Gal said.

"Most of our crowd is younger and there is no specific culture or theme, such as, this is a leather bar or sports bar, etc.," said Gal, who noted that two 50-year-old Palestinians are nightly regulars.

Gal also has spotted ultraorthodox Jews coming to the bar, including one who is a cross-dresser.

"It's a fun place, that's for sure," Gal said.

The music played at Mikveh is traditional U.S. pop—Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, etc. The legal drinking age here is 18, though the bar targets those in their late 20s and early 30s.

Located on the eastern side of City Center, Mikveh Bar is about a five minute walk from Jerusalem's Old City.

Beer is the top seller at Mikveh, which opens nightly at 10 p.m., and usually closes at 4 a.m.

"We will stay open later, if the interest is there," Gal said, adding that the closing time is "when the last customer leaves."

Gal said Mikveh has not had any anti-gay incidents.

"We were aware that, when we opened, there might be problems, but nothing has happened," Gal said.


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