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Wednesday, November 26, 1997 Published at 16:12 GMT


Sex-change singer causes a stir in Israel
image: [ Dana International will represent Israel ]
Dana International will represent Israel

The religious establishment in Israel has attacked the choice of a flamboyant transsexual pop singer, Dana International, as Israel's entry in next year's Eurovision Song contest.

Dana International, who has had a sex change operation, was chosen over 14 other contestants by a committee appointed by the Israeli Broadcasting Authority.

She will perform her song "Diva" at the Eurovision contest, to be held in Birmingham.

The ultra-Orthodox religious party, Shas, said the choice symbolised the sickness of secular Israel. A Shas member of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, Shlomo Ben-Izri, said he would ask the government to reverse the decision.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews disapprove of ordinary female singers, to say nothing of transsexuals.

However, one rabbi is reported to have ruled that men could attend Dana's performances as long as they realised that Dana was really a man.

[ image: Ultra-Orthodox Jews disapprove of a secular life-style]
Ultra-Orthodox Jews disapprove of a secular life-style
Tensions between ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews have increased sharply following last year's election in Israel. Right-wing and religious parties are now members of Israel's government, and wield considerable influence.

Dana International, born Yaron Cohen, was voted singer of the year by listeners to one Israeli radio station, although music critics appear divided over her work.

Most of her songs are in Hebrew. However, Dana's family is originally from Yemen, and she is able to sing in Arabic. Her manager says she has a big following in Egypt.

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