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Jerusalem Diary: Monday 12 October

Avi Levy
Avi Levy is keen to remain as discreet as possible

By Tim Franks
BBC News, Jerusalem

HAVE SEX, NOT WARS

People who work to bring Jews and Arabs together often neither seek nor gain glory.

The projects grind on, in the shadows, on the margins, with little reward.

But Avi Levy's self-proclaimed work on co-existence is not just handsomely rewarded, it also could not be more out there.

Mr Levy, 49, is a pornographer. Eight years ago, along with some business partners, he set up the website Parpar 1 - literally butterfly in Hebrew, but also slang for swinger.

In a saturated market, he believes he has identified a niche: Israeli men and women having "real sex", as he describes it.

People on the streets get along fine... We're intertwined. The problems are caused by the leaders, by the extremists. Our lives are together. Why not have sex together?
Avi Levy

And, better still, he says, the website offers Arabs and Jews having sex together.

It is at this point in our conversation that the unremarkable Mr Levy, in shorts and flip-fops, on the sofa in his living-room, becomes particularly animated.

He wants to show, he says, "that there are not only wars here, but also love and sex and affection. People think we walk around with guns all day, but we also make love."

His own large house is set back from a quiet, leafy road in the city of Raanana.

"If you walk around this city, or (the nearby predominantly Arab town of) Umm-al-Fahm," he continues, "the people on the streets get along fine. We work with each other; we eat at each other's restaurants. We're intertwined. The problems are caused by the leaders, by the extremists. Our lives are together. Why not have sex together?"

His is a small operation. A website designer by trade, he now also directs and shoots his own films.

The actors are, he says, all willing amateurs: "doctors, engineers, secretaries".

Mr Levy denies that he is degrading and objectifying women. "I don't make anyone do something they don't want to. They're over 18. They're not drug addicts. It's their choice. Many people come not because of the money, but because they're exhibitionists."

But there is, clearly, money to be made. Mr Levy has a spacious and comfortable house, in a posh area of Israel. Outside, sits his four-wheel drive car.

He will not say how many subscribers he has, nor what the annual turnover is. He wants to remain as discreet as the website's billing on credit card statements, which appears as "petrol supplies".

RUNNER-UP, AGAIN

Avi Levy insists that Israel is misconceived abroad. "We're seen as an ultra-religious society, with people walking around with guns. It's not true. Go to Tel Aviv. People are normal."

His words, strangely, chime with those of one of Israel's prouder exports, the novelist Amos Oz.

For the umpteenth time in recent years, Mr Oz was seen as one of the favourites for the Nobel Literature Prize, which was announced last Thursday (and which, once again, he failed to win).

The day after I spoke to Avi Levy, I listened back to the interview I had had with Amos Oz, five months before, in his house in Arad.

"Israel is often conceived in a very uni-dimensional way," he said.

"When you watch Israel on the world media, you see 80% fanatic settlers, 19% cruel soldiers at the road-blocks, and 1% wonderful intellectuals like myself who criticise the government and struggle for peace.

"But the truth of it is that Israel is essentially a country of 80% secular, middle-class, hedonistic, noisy, passionate people who live on the coastal plain and have nothing to with the occupied territories."

Avi Levy would probably agree with that.


This is a selection of your comments on the diary.

It's nice to see an article that represents a big chunk of our society. As an Israeli who often travels abroad, I am amazed at the conception and opinion that people hold of Israel. It's usually between a country full of sand and camels and bombs, or religious fanatics - who are an extremely small minority within a population of six million. We are not a violent culture and we want peace just as much as the families living in Gaza.
Shaul del Monte, Tel-Aviv, Israel

The noisy, passionate middle classes have nothing to do whatsoever with the society they are part of and the government they elect.
Mr Reader, London, UK

Israelis are just like other diaspora Jews, open, liberal , creative and fun-loving, Israel is a very sexy country and the society is vibrant creative and very passionate. Most non-Jewish visitors who go to Israel are shocked at the beauty of the people and the place. Unfortunately anti-Israeli propaganda and anti-Semitic stereotype images of Jews have painted a false picture of what we Jews are really like. We are much more Hollywood than Holy-land!
Anonymous

I think it's a great idea! I often lament our world where death, violence and nationalism are more readily acceptable than universal love, sex and affection.
Carl, London, UK



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