by David Cohen

A young Israeli writer describes his struggles in finding his own way in gay life and the right to do what he loves most.

There are only a few days in one’s life that you can truly be described as “milestones,” or game-changers, like one snow flake of many that lands on a branch and break it.

In the summer of 2007, Itamar was blessed to get that kind of day - the day he decided to start writing his first book, Niv.

The years prior 2004-2006 were the most amazing––and the most painful––of his life. In 2005, he obtained his first recording contract,  and  for the first time ever someone believed in his art of music. Also, a successful Israeli singer recorded one of his songs, and it instantly became a huge hit. To Itamar, the sky couldn’t have been sunnier.

It didn’t last long.  God very quickly turned his wheel of fortune upside down. The radio stations did not welcome Itamr’s music with open arms anymore, and they didn’t accept any of his other singles.  Instead, they put a big red “X” on his songs, which became a big red “X” on his entire being. Itamar’s manager deserted him, and “I felt  as abandoned as a motherless child. As a result, I became depressed and very self-destructive.”

With no light at the end of the tunnel, Itamar stayed  up late many nights, took too many drugs, and drank way too much alcohol. His thoughts were running in high speed, and his agony was unbearable. He was disappointed in himself, and “I felt I had let my family down because I did not succeed with my music career.  I didn’t see any purpose to my life, and I thought that the smart thing to do would be to raise a white flag and admit defeat.”

The thought of going back to a ‘normal’ career frightened him, so instead he found comfort in the next drink. Being drunk made his thoughts blur, and “I came to a point where I became tired of thinking. Night flew by, and before I knew it, the sun was rising. I tried to shut my eyes, wishing for some peace and quiet––or a dreamless sleep––but I couldn’t. One day, I suddenly woke up, staring at the ceiling, knowing that I shouldn’t just quit because some people slammed the door in my face. If there wasn’t a door to go through, I would find a window to climb through.”  In that moment, Itamar knew he didn’t deserve to be miserable, so he began questioning everything to find the hope that was waiting for him.

Itamar needed to fight back and make his dreams a reality. “I knew that I would have to dive wholheartedly into the creative process.  However, I decided to write my first novel, Niv. I was going to be happy again and not allow any force to ever turn my life upside down again.”  

My name, Itamar, in Hebrew means palm tree,  as they  are known to be flexible but unbreakable.

The moment of enlightenment came to him as Itamar decided to leave his old life behind. Within one week, he quit his job as a club manager and left his apartment in Tel Aviv.  “I decided to take a year off from my previous life and to move into my parents. There I began my new adventure in my new life.”

Itamar’s life consists of three great loves: family, literature, and music. “I sustain each of my loves  with 26 letters of the alphabet (twenty two in Hebrew) and eight basic musical notes.”

His parents always stood behind him. “No matter how hard any decision I made in my adult life, they  accepted me and my decisions completely.”  “My parents supported me when I was 19, a soldier in the Israeli army, and in love for the first time with the ‘wrong’ gender (Oh boy, it felt so right!) Their support continued when I decided to be a musician and singer/songwriter, instead of becoming a doctor or a lawyer.” 

As a new author, Itamar was unable to make it on hismy home country of Israel. His only choice was to travel to the other side of the world to promote his new book and to find a publisher.  During his travels, Itamar’s parents remained his anchor, and always stood by him.

“Everybody has their share of crazy family stories. My nutty family didn’t need the hot climate of Israel with its eastern desert winds called “hamseen” to make them crazy.”

His family life went in cycles from being calm and cheerful to explosive. Every time his parents had a fight, his mothor would be yelling while packing her stuff in a suitcase about to leave his dad. Of course, the next morning she didn’t understand why we were worried, saying, “I never said I was leaving.”

“My oldest sister had a baby when she was on the verge of a breakdown. My other sister ran to India to sit on a mountain with ‘crazy’ people in white togas. And me? I got another tattoo.”

Itamar grew up with three dogs, about 23 cats and several not-so-friendly ghosts who used to hang out with his familly in the house. “I’m not kidding, closet doors opened all at once, toilets flushed themselves, but we got used to their presence. My chef sister and my mother are some kind of Jewish gypsy psychics who always performed séances as part of the family’s entertainment.”

Itamar was accepted because he wasn’t the only freak in his family. The amount of love built on the ‘crazy’ genes they all shared. As the saying goes, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” is true. This was obvious at any family gathering. where his domineering, almost deaf grandma meets with her other six equally domineering almost deaf sisters. Soon it’s a loud soap opera where everybody is gossiping, fighting, yelling and hugging.

In general, his family is a very maternal family, where the women dictate the tone. “As for myself, I am somewhere in the middle. If you think of my family as a parliament, you would definitely find me in the women’s coalition; an important member, but not equal because, gay or not, I’m a man first.”

Itamar spent his three years of military service in the Israeli Defense Force’s Intelligence, which for him was definitely the biggest gay community he have sever seen. “I always wish I was open with my sexuality while serving in the army. I can’t imagine how rich my sex life would have been. My unit was the biggest flourishing gay “Green House.”  Although, who would believe that, The best intelligence in the world run by gay men and women? It is hard to believe, but Itamar was  truly consider himself lucky to have been born in Israel where the Israeli Parliament and the Supreme Court are leaders in gay rights. “I’m proud to have the choice of being openly gay and able to live with a male partner, if I choose, and be accepted as equals. Unfortunately, I haven’t found my partner, yet, but with some luck, I will have one in the near future.”  

During his quest for love and a publisher for his book, Itamar moved to the Balkan Peninsula in Southeastern Europe because his music was influenced by Greek and Yugoslav culture.  “I spent some time in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, and totally fell in love with the city. I thought I had found my second home. However, because homosexuality is taboo there, I couldn’t see myself living there in an open and free same-sex relationship. For me, there is no career or Prince Charming that would be worth not living as a free, proud gay man.”  

From the Balkan Peninsula his journey continued and Itamar moved to New York City. During his search for a publisher Itamar met Lisa Hutton, a brilliant poet that became friend. With her brilliant English skills, Lisa brought his book to life. However, his journey was cut short as  his father was diagnosed with fatal cancer. “My father died a few months after my return to Israel. It felt like a tornado attacking our house,  with my father gone and the rest of us all with an unnatural emptiness.” While in Israel, Itamar continued his attempts to find a publisher and finally he found the Wilkinson House Press, a new and small UK gay literature press, who agreed to publish his book. The owner and editor, Mr. Rod Evan, had given Itamar the opportunity for which he was looking for.  Mr. Evan helped Itamar with the editing, as well as finding the right cover image, and finally “I knew I found my  real second family.”   

Itamar interest in Middle Eastern studies and its politics were the leading force behind his serving in the IDF’s Intelligence. This was also the reason why he studied the History of the Middle East and International relationships at the Open University. “Of course, I still have the passion to learn more about my fascinating region, and religions in general, but I prefer to deal with those subjects through my own stories as portrayed in my first novel Niv.”

Itamar personal opinion follows the Arab saying ”you have your religion, I have mine, but God is one, and all of us to Adam.” Anyone can choose their own  God, but we all came from the same source Adam and Eve, have the same flesh and blood, and share the same genes. We were all created in the same way––we were created as equals.

 the book

Niv, Erez, Katya and Anush are four young lovers whose sexual awakenings are threatened by the rigid religious values and social attitudes that surround them. These pressures, coupled with the concerns of their families and the course of history itself, means that each must fight for the freedom to find their own way in life and the right to love the one they choose.
In this first novel, Itamar S. N weaves together parallel stories to reveal tragic secrets and hidden truths. From the rural borderlands of Armenia and Azerbaijan during the first World War, to the hectic, cosmopolitan art scene of the 21st century Tel Aviv, Niv is a story that will intrigue, surprise and inspire any reader. 
With millions of views on his YouTube channel, a huge fan club, and a successful debut album titled “ELI LIEB: Place of Paradise,” the good looking young man never gave up hope. “If you want something you must stay on it until you achieve it.”

During his ten years of living in New York City trying to develop his music career in the East Village, Eli took the New York City songwriting scene by storm. After his first performance at Sidewalk Café, he met  with many producers, label executives and big shot collaborators in the industry.

After exploring the big-labels, to no avail, Eli decided to go  back to his hometown. In Iowa he was able to find refuge and get to do what he loves most, writing his own music.  At home, Eli was able to find himself, and regain the focus that would change his life. 

Currently he is working on his sophmore album, “It definitely still has the same electro-pop feel, but there is a little more acoustic stuff in there. I feel like it is just more mature. I think as an artist you keep on evolving and growing and learning more, and I think that this album, I approached it in a way that I knew a lot more than I did for the first album.”

In the fall of 2011, Eli quickly became a YouTube sensation after posting homemade videos of his covers of Katy Perry, Lady GaGa, Adele, Lana del Rey and Rihanna. His sensational electropop ballad video “Place of Paradise,” was one of the most exciting, self-produced, club-beat albums that year, garnering over 200,000 views on US Weekly’s website.”I understood what YouTube can do, and I really don’t need the big labels to succeed, what I need is to be happy, healthy, eat well with lots of vegetables and to get enough sleep. You need to be healthy.” 

Perhaps one of the keys to understanding Lieb's intuitive sense of melody and insightful candid lyricsis rooted in his lifelong practice of Transcendental Meditation (TM). Raised in a small  town with loving parents who practiced meditation every day, he  continues to make himself stronger, focused and grateful for what he has in life. TM is the same meditation that the Maharishi introduced to the Beatles.  “Meditation allows me to go through life with positivity and joy and makes me feel a deep connection to the underlying currents that we are all a part of.” These currents of life have led Eli down a very rewarding personal path. While performing at a fundraiser hosted by the David Lynch Foundation, a proponent of Transcendental Meditation, Eli had the opportunity to meet Ellen DeGeneres, Russell Brand, Katy Perry and other celebrities.

Being  honest, writing lyrics from the soul, and staying true to his artistic inspirations  from the deepest levels of his spirit, allow Eli to seamlessly transform these elements into quality raw music with very little editing. When I asked him where he wants to be in five or ten years from now, he reponded, “This is what I want to keep on doing, writing my music...I already made my dreams come true.”