By Antonio Capurro
How is everything going in Israel?
Eveything is doing well. I’m waiting for winter because Israel is very very hot right now.
Tell us a little about you, where were you born and what did you study?
Johan: I’m Johan Sandrea, I was born in Caracas, Venezuela on September 10, 1992. I studied Customs and Foreign Trade.
Itzik: I am Itzhak Mazin, but everybody call me Itzik. I was born in Jaffa, Israel on October 4, 1977, my date of birth in the Hebrew calendar is the day in which the Jews finish reading the entire bible during the year and celebrate singing and dancing in the streets for such an event, basically I was born on the happiest Jewish day. I studied Social Sciences and Human Resources at the University, I also studied Coaching in Personal Development and Couples Counselling.
Johan: I’m not Jewish, and nothing interesting happens on my birthday hahaha.
How did you meet? Do you want to get married? Tell us your love story…
Johan: On March 23, 2017 Facebook suggested Itzik as a friend and it was love at first click haha, I saw his photos and he seemed beautiful and sexy, so I added him and sent him a first message saying ‘I think you are beautiful,’ after a few hours he answered me and that’s when everything started.
Itzik: I remember that one day, when I received a friendship request from a beautiful boy, I went to his profile to verify that it was not a fake account and I found photos that were ‘too beautiful to be true’ haha. So after I saw his message, I told him we needed to talk via a Skype call, and after seeing him and talking to him, I understood that he was more beautiful on the inside than on the outside and the rest is history. We met in person on May 17, 2017 in Madrid, Spain, that’s the beginning of our relationship. It’s already been 1 year and 5 months.
Johan: On August 24 I landed in Israel after a quite emotional process, since I needed a tourist visa to enter this country because Venezuela does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, I waited 3 months in Madrid until August 23 the Ministry of the Interior approved my visa, the next day I was on the plane on my way to the Holy Land.
After 6 months I received my work visa and we are currently in a process in Israel called ‘Known in public’, it will take about 7 years until I get the nationality.
Itzik: In Israel you can not get married, but you can do it in another country and the State recognizes your marriage without problem. Of course we have thought about wedding, but we believe that when the right moment comes, we will do it For me it is not really important where and how to celebrate our wedding as long as we are together and have the experience, I am happy. I could be on my honeymoon all year with him hehe.
Johan: I will choose the country haha, I also don’t have a plan for our wedding, I would only like to be with our family and all those people who have been important to us. Being with Itzik is the most beautiful thing that has happened to me in life, he is my first relationship and he has taught me a lot. No matter how, I just want to share my life with him. Of course, the party can not be in Israel to not put all my friends and family to suffer to get the tourist visa hahaha
Did you have to deal with your ages and cultural backgrounds?
Itzik: In my opinion, beauty in a healthy relationship is that you don’t need to deal with or resolve the differences between the two. Each one is different with tastes, hobbies, opinions, etc, and the difference in age is just one more of our differences, we do not try to change it or change ourselves.
Johan: I do not have any problem with our age difference. Part of being together is the attraction that we have for each other, and for me he is perfect, that’s why we are a match. Like the song “A mi me gustan mayores” hahaha We like to do many things together, we always go out, we walk, we are very romantic, we do not stop talking, we hug, and of course, we never miss a good series of Netflix, right now we are watching Jane The Virgin, we recommend it. We like our cultural differences, we learn a lot about ourselves, food, songs, religion, language etc. We feel that we enrich each other.
Johan, how do you see the situation of your country right now?
Venezuela is a country that does not deserve to be in this critical situation. For those who don’t know, Venezuela is facing a destructive communism where thousands are murdered everyday thanks to a depotic Venezuelan regime. There is no quality of life, there is food shortage and basic services such as water and electricity are intermittent, to the point that because of the hyperinflation that exists, there is no longer cash in ATMs. For this reason, millions of Venezuelans like me were forced to leave and start from scratch in another country, many don’t know but the vast majority of those who left, are people with university degrees, because culturally studying is our goal, but given the circumstances, my country no longer offering us anything worth staying. Being an immigrant is not easy, you must arm yourself with courage and be prepared for what comes. When I made the decision to go to Spain before I had known about Itzik, it was because I felt in jail in my own country and when I arrived in Madrid with little money, the second day of staying in the house of a person that I thought I could trust, he kicked me out of his house without caring where I would go. Thank God, in Madrid I have some friends and they gave me a hand, but the feeling of reaching a place where nothing belongs to you and where you have no certainty of what may happen, I do not wish it to anyone. In the second week after arriving, Itzik went to Madrid to see me and became my superhero, I owe a lot to him and to my two best friends who currently live there.
So, if you read this and you know a Venezuelan or any immigrant having a bad time, give him or her a hand, you would be making a beautiful gesture.
Itzik, what is the current situation of gay rights in Israel? What is the impact on gay couples?
I think Israel is in a good place regarding the rights of the LGBTQ community compared to other countries. The Society in Israel has a long history of understanding and accepting our rights, yet much remains to be learned. The Islamic religion is not tolerant of LGBTQ people, in the Islamic countries, gay people are persecuted, harassed, imprisoned and even murdered. The State of Israel is the only healthy country in the Middle East where LGBTQ people can have a free, safe and happy life Israel accepts people from Arab countries who want to live here because otherwise, these people could die in their countries of origin. Personally I do not know Arab people who fled to Israel, but in the past I went out with Arab-Israli guys who have suffered homophobic reactions from their own families so they have had to stay in the closet.
Was it diffucult to come out of the closet and face it with your parents and your friends?
Itzik: When I was 19 years old, I was a soldier in the army, my sister found a love letter from my ex-boyfriend and showed it to my mother, that’s how I came out of the closet. When my mom asked me if I was gay, I said: ‘Do not call me gay or straight, I’m a person who does not let other people tell me who I am or who I should be’, by that time, I used to go out with girls too, but at some point, I decided to just hang out with guys. I think it was never difficult for me to tell people that I am gay, because I have felt very complete and comfortable with my sexuality.
Johan: In my case, at 21 years old, I was dating a boy and after a fight with my mom for a lie I told her so I could spend the day with him, I felt very frustrated for not being able to be who I wanted to be without fear, so that night I wrote a three-page letter declaring what I felt and what I liked the most, I left it in my mom’s kitchen and went to the movies. When leaving the theatre, a cousin called me to find out if I was okay and she told me that my mom was having a meltdown (Latin drama!), when I got home, she was calmer and talked with me. Her fear was that when she saw that letter, she thought that I had hurt myself, thankfully she understood that her love for me was greater than my sexual preferences. Today, at 26 years old, she loves Itzik and being gay is not a taboo for me. In fact, I can not believe I waited until I was 21 to declare myself, I would have done it as soon as I understood that I was gay, because now I understand that there is nothing wrong with me.
How do you see the situation of LGTBQ / LGBTI rights in Europe after the resurgence of some radical right or extremist parties?
We live in the best moment of the LGBTI community, many countries accept and allow our rights and even religious countries and conservatives like Ireland or India have advanced on the issue of our rights. Lately we are witnessing radical movements in Europe that can risk everything we have achieved till today, as is the case of Romania trying to modify its Constitution to prohibit marriage equality, but we hope that common sense wins this battle between light and darkness.
Want to share particular anecdote you have experienced during your dating period?
Johan: Itzik suffers from thirst every 5 minutes and being in Madrid, before going for a walk, he filled a bottle with water, that moment I was in front of the fridge to drink water, he gives me the bottle and tells me to keep it, but he never told me where, so I literally put it in the fridge. When we left the house to the train station under 40 degrees, he asked me for the bottle with water, so I told him “Hey, you told me to keep it, and it’s in the fridge in the house.”
Itzik: Of course that was our first ‘fight’ Hahaha.
When you’re not doing things together, how do you have fun?
At the moment, Johan is new to Israel, so he does not know many people, so we prefer to be together, we also enjoy it to the fullest, we are not Party Boys, but we love to walk and watch series. In the future, when Johan is more comfortable with Israel, we’ll do different things.
Have you made friends with other gay couples from other parts of the world?
Through Instagram many people write us for advice and send ss a lot of love, we still do not know other couples in person in other parts of the world, but we hope we can meet many people and be an inspiration to other couples wherever they are.
Do you want a family? Adoption or surrogacy?
We consider ourselves a family, we believe that in the future we will surely expand ours and when the right time comes, we will see how to do it.
So far what has been the hardest time to face as a couple and the happiest?
The most difficult thing was to be separated from each other, because our process consumed us emotionally on a large scale, every day we cried over Skype waiting for a response from the Ministry of the Interior. It was a fairly long process.
And as a consequence, the happiest moment was when we met again at the airport on August 24 at 12:30 a.m.
What advice would you give to same-sex couples for maintaining a stable relationship?
The most important thing in a relationship is communication, talking about the things you wish or want, even those that bother you in the relationship and always speak through emotions and feelings and not with complaints. There are many tips that can help, but we believe that each person has their own ideas, thoughts and beliefs that you can never question because there is no universal truth. The important thing is to accept and respect the differences of the other and always open your mind to the perspective of the other. If you have fights or you do not agree with something, always try to meet halfway.
What is favorite gay movie? Your favorite song?
We loved “Call me by your name”, especially for the ages of the characters, we identified haha. We don’t have a favorite song but a Playlist with songs that range from Celine Dion to Selena Gomez.
What do you know about Peru?
We have never been, but Itzik’s dream is to know Latin America, so Peru is of course on our list.
What would you say to same-sex couples in countries where they do not have the equal rights or to gay or lesbian boys who suffer from depression or trans girls and boys that are struggling?
We will tell them not to give up to fight for their rights, hope is always the best option: Stay strong.
What are your personal plans and as a couple, how do you see your life in five years?
In 5 years we see ourselves together, with an even stronger love, happy, traveling and experiencing other cultures and fulfilling each other’s destiny.