Introducing Tel Aviv’s Queer Collective PAGTweet
PAG is a collective and party, pushing mind-altering techno and an otherworldly atmosphere, all the while providing a safe space for queer youth in the Israeli city.
“As a young gay man who lived in the suburbs of Tel Aviv, I was fascinated by the idea of taking part in this colourful madness; the art performance, the eccentric shows, the music I felt connected with. PAG was nothing like other gay nights in town,” says Tal Maman, the booking manager and co-owner of the Israel-based collective.
“So what exactly is PAG?” I ask Maman from a tiny studio in Paris, mid heatwave. “It was always a place for everyone,” he says. “A real safe space where you could find all genders and shapes.”
Established seventeen years ago, PAG was brought to life by those who wanted to create a safe haven for the queer youth in the Israeli city. Amid conflicts that have continued to the present day, they longed for a place to express themselves, to rebel against heteronormativity and government-enforced oppression. Their parties deliver whimsical and colourful art performances, as a collective they are at the forefront of Tel Aviv’s nightlife.
“PAG is representative of the counter-culture and the huge worldwide movement that asks for real equality,” Maman says at the other end of the phone. “We will always celebrate realness and beauty as raw and pure as it can be.”
Maman describes life in the big city as a protective shield from what is actually going on in the politically-troubled country. Describing the sociopolitical atmosphere as a democracy-threatening one, Maman highlights that many people decide to close their eyes to their surroundings due to feeling powerless, opting instead to create their own bubble.
“A big city also provides isolation. A much more liberal and open-minded spirit in Tel-Aviv served to create a bubble,” he tells “Therefore, you can easily disavow the bad things going on in our own country.”
Israel has seen increasing hostility amongst the general public. As Maman and those around him grew up to realise the state of their own country, they felt determined to take a stand against it. While partying and planning nights out within PAG, Maman found a stronger foothold to fight the establishment: “The collective was always the voice of our community and stood up against oppression,” he continues “It became a true home for queers, gays, non-binaries, trans, blacks, whites, Arabs, Jews, femmes, muscular, fat and whoever else wanted to celebrate diversity, body pride and radical expression.”
Israel made headlines worldwide due to their early uptake in COVID-19 cases. The cities of Israel saw lockdown measures as early as March, leaving the nightlife scene in shambles. April came and with it a glimpse of hope in regards to the pandemic which saw the reopening of stores and barbershops. In May, schools started to reopen, only to be closed shortly after due to cases amongst staff and students, leaving the nation infuriated.
Israeli citizens became fed up. Fed up of a government convicted of crimes, that carried on threatening its people and fed up of the handling of the pandemic. So with that, they took to the streets.
“With the protests, we are representing the sad story of our generation, a generation who wasn’t in a good place even before the crisis…Many of us lost our jobs, and what seemed temporary at the beginning now looks like a real existential struggle.”
Maman adds that this upcoming week will be the tenth week where thousands of people get together in Balfor, the official prime minister’s residency in Jerusalem, singing the chants “Go home” or “Time’s up!”
“PAG has shown support and solidarity for this protest, it’s using its power on social media to speak up to the community, educate them with relevant information and call them to action,” Maman explains.
On a reflective note, Maman adds that the uprisings embody the fight for normality and the survival of their community: “We are fighting for the basic rights we all deserve. We are here to say, TIME’S UP for the prime minister, who tries to destroy everything we have achieved, TIME’S UP for trying to divide us, TIME’S UP for police brutality.”
With no prospect of being able to continue organising the longed-for parties and crazy events, PAG created a label and released their debut EP this past August 21st. With this release, the collective shares a glimpse of their dancefloors, helping listeners to reminisce about the pre-COVID times when the love for freaky techno beats could be shared with other sweaty ravers. See our premiere below.
On the subject of the label, Maman tells “Our first EP has come out in a really special period of time…People are really struggling so it’s important for us to be there, to provide those glimpses of sanity through our release and podcasts.”
There’s still a lot of fighting to do. People in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are reclaiming their freedom and long to stop the violence that has plagued their country for decades. This is PAG’s priority for now before they can dream of being able to dance together again.
“The nightlife scene is struggling to get back to normal but I’d like to ask our colleagues to join us in this basic fundamental fight for freedom…We can see it in other places where this current situation has led many countries to join this basic fight, which will ensure us to be able to go back stronger and more united.”
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