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Are These Israeli Puppets Gay? Should Sheka and Teka Come Out?

By Jerry Portwood

Sheka, Teka, and a baby puppet courtesy Israel Electric Corporation, HOPD

When images resembling Sesame Street Co.'s Bert and Ernie recently appeared on a New Yorker cover, most the reactions were one of acceptance and enthusiasm that the asexual puppets that lived together for decades were show in a loving embrace (it's all fictional of course—neutered puppets don't really have loving relationships, right?). But now it seems a a pair of Israeli male puppets named Sheka and Teka in Hebrew, translation is “socket” and “plug,” have instead unleashed a debate about gay rights.

The duo have appeared in ads for the state-owned Israel Electric Corp. for more than a decade, according to AP. As the Times of Israel explains, in the latest ad, Sheka and Teka are:

"seen in a living room, talking to a pinkish baby puppet with a tuft of orange hair. The scene then flashes back to a hospital nursery, where the baby is sucking on a pacifier and Teka congratulates Sheka on the birth of his child. It’s unclear who the mother is.

"Later in the ad, the duo sits on a park bench with the child. They breathe in the fresh air the electricity company suggests is made possible by cleaner energy production. Teka sniffs and suggests that the baby needs a diaper change."

It seems the ads have coyly hinted at their relationship (showing them in a paddle boat in the Dead Sea together and lounging at home in pajams). Now many gay Israelis have demanded that the puppets officially come out and their relationship is recognized. “This should weigh on the conscience of everyone who worked on this campaign, who will come home and ask themselves whether they would want to raise a child in a country where the electric company says: ‘Hide, don’t be proud,’” wrote Dvir Bar in nightlife magazine City Mouse.

This seems to have thrown things into a tizzy in the religious country. Although same-sex marriages are not legally allowed, they are recognized in the country (so many people circumvent the legalities, as Michael Lucas showed in his documentary, Undressing Israel). as Gil Kol, a spokesman for the Israeli national LGBT task force, noted: “Sheka and Teka have represented the Israeli Electric Corp. for years and have been gay for years. Having kids and expanding the family seems to be a natural stage in the evolution of the story. That pretty much represents what is happening in the LGBT community,” he said.

So, are others "outing" Sheka and Teka or are they being forced to live a double life? Such a complicated moral quandry. What do you think?

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