The colorful culture of the Israeli Gay Bear community

Tired of gay men being portrayed as effeminate and thin, burly, hairy gays establish the 'gay bear' community and have all sorts of bonding activities, including their own 'Mr. Gay Bear' competition and yes, some intensely-sexual parties

Hagay Ayed|
"I don't have the size of a bear, but I consider myself part of the bear community," says 59-year-old reflexologist Oded Doar who stars in the new season of Israeli TV show "Come Eat With Me".
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  • The word bear is LGBT slang for a bulky and hairy man. The term originated in the U.S with the "Big gay biker community".
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    עודד דואר
    עודד דואר
    Burly and proud, Oded Doar
    (Photo: Avi Kochavi)
    Many believe it was a counterweight to the gay stereotype of an effeminate, slender man, as well as a mechanism of self-acceptance and positive body image.
    "The community has quite the range," he says. "In terms of age we have 20 year-olds all the way to 70-year-olds. Some people are just attracted by "bear men" even if they're thin. I'm a bear who is attracted to other bears. I'm afraid I might break thin men's bones if I hug them too tight."
    What communal activity is unique to bears?
    "There are plenty of activities, like a nightly sea dipping every summer in Tel Aviv. There's also a daily zoom session for bears, which began during COVID. Some arrange meals in different people's homes. There's also the annual "Mr. Bear Israel" competition. I was in it last year, but didn't win. There are wild parties, like Thomas' "beef" party line, where sexuality is very pronounced."
    Don't you feel too old for partying like that?
    "No way! Best time of my life. I'm in my prime. I work all day, have fun, do workshops, traveling and plenty other stuff. 50 is the new 40 and 60 is the new 50, especially if you work out. Ageism is quite bad in this community but older men shouldn't be afraid to live. They don't have to hang out with 20-year-olds to have fun.
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    עודד דואר
    עודד דואר
    Oded Doar
    (Photo: Selfie)
    "I invite people to participate in all manners of activities we have. That's why I competed in Mr. Bear. I wanted them to see there are older people in this community. People came to me afterwards and told me I got them out of the house. I'm healthy, work out three times a week and am in a relationship, but that doesn't mean that those who aren't can't do what I do."
    Oded lives in Kiryat Bialik just north of Haifa, with his partner of 23 years and their two children, and was once married to a woman for seven years. "I married out of love and we were doing great. I was 35 when we finally parted ways. That's when I came out and later met my partner."
    Did you experiment sexually before coming out?
    "No experimentation for me. When I was a teen I thought about it. I definitely had some penis-related interest but did nothing about it. Back then it just wasn't done."
    How do you keep the passion and romance in a long term relationship?
    "We meet every evening, dine and talk about our day. I absolutely love cooking. Also, talking and openness are paramount in any relationship, especially when there's an argument."
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    It's not just thin, toned guys that get to have all the fun
    It's not just thin, toned guys that get to have all the fun
    It's not just thin, toned guys that get to have all the fun
    (Photo: Chillz)
    What's it like having gay family in the periphery?
    "We're very comfortable here and people around here have accepted us. I love being in Tel Aviv but at the end of every day I love driving back north and relaxing, plus there are plenty of things to do in Haifa. You don't get Tel Aviv's wild parties but the bear community has plenty of activities here."
    You spoke of parties with pronounced sexuality. Does that mean you have an open relationship?
    "It's not 100% open, but we talk about it. We're more flexible about it when we're in a Sauna or a party, but only when we're together."
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