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DISH: SAVOR Israeli TV chef talks food, family

by Matt Simonette
2017-10-02

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Despite being a prominent TV personality, food journalist and chef in Israel, Gil Hovav, who is gay, insists that he's "not that infatuated with food."

Hovav—who recently passed through Chicago on his way to a speaking engagement elsewhere in the States—explained, "I love food, but I don't think it's the most important thing in life. But still it's a part of everyone's life. We enjoy it, so why not?"

Even if Havov is not infatuated with food, many in his country are.

"Israel, since the '80s, has been a foodie nation," he said. "People have become all about what they eat and what they drink. They're very interested in their food. … Food is immense."

Despite his professed ambiguity towards food, Hovav has contributed to his nation's love for it; he's written and spoken for years about the nation's diverse cuisine, and promotes cooking at home. He comes from a prominent family; his great-grandfather, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, helped establish modern Hebrew as the nation's language.

Hovav and his partner, Daniel Halperin, have a teenage daughter, Naomi. He said that, "It is not really difficult, but not really 'special,'" to be openly gay and a celebrity. "I'm 55-years-old. All of my gay and lesbian friends have children—all of them. Gay families are very strong in Israel."

Adoption by gay couples is more of a prominent social-issue than marriage is, he noted. Adoption by same-sex couples is technically legal, but opposite-sex couples are given preference by authorities.

"According to old laws, they are given first to religious Jewish families, and later, to [other] straight families, but not to gay families. Later, it was in the Supreme Court, where the government said that, 'Adoption is very complicated—for the benefit of the child, maybe it would be better to live in a family that is ordinary.' That caused a huge outcry in Israel. Within one week, the state reversed its declaration, and the government said that that [same-sex couples adopting is 'kosher.' It still has to be legislated, but it is going to happen soon."

He added, "We still don't have marriage yet. You have to get married through the rabbinical system, which is of course not going to have gay marriage. Most of my secular friends don't get married according to this system—if they want to 'marry,' they just live together and that's it, or they go Cypress or someplace else. If they get married anywhere else, it's immediately recognized by the state, along with gay marriage."

He noted that he and his partner have been together for 30 years. However, he said, "We never bothered or tried to get married. I don't think it's important. It's an 'un-Israeli thing' to care about that."

Hovav, Halperin and Naomi live in the same neighborhood in Tel Aviv as Naomi's biological mother, he said. Naomi goes between the two houses, "like a happily divorced family," Hovav said, laughing.


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