Meet Hila Cohen Lavi – The Dog Lover Who Speaks to Computers!
With a versatile personality, Hila Cohen Lavi, is a traditional Yemenite woman of Jewish origin who also happens to be gay. Whether it’s in the technical field, spirituality, or light activism, she believes in keeping an open mind while following her heart.
Hila loves dogs and has two dogs at home. But her unending love for dogs is not limited to her home. She greets “hi” to every dog that she meets on the street.
She also likes movies and television, especially documentaries and foreign cinema. She is also part of an amateur women’s soccer team and likes DJing for her friends and host them in her home. And, when she’s not lazy, she can be a pretty good cook.
Areas of expertise
Encounter with IT and onward journey with Qualitest
Hila has been with Qualitest since 2005. She started as both a Receptionist and IT Employee for two years until she left for film school. After graduating, she returned to join the IT team and has never looked back.
At present, Hila is a full-time IT Manager at Qualitest Israel. “I love the people and the opportunities of a growing and developing company,” she says when asked about the company.
Her thoughts on Pride Month and the LGBTQ+ community
Hila explains how coming out was a very personal challenge for her. Being born in an Orthodox religious family and growing up in religious schools were some of the biggest impediments growing up.
According to her, things gradually started turning around during her time at film school. Her interactions with a diverse group of people made her very introspective about herself, and she finally came out as gay at the age of twenty-nine.
Talking about her feeling after coming out, she says, “I felt free at last, I realized that I was afraid to accept myself all these years because I was ashamed.”
Coming out introduced new hardships. Hila’s mother initially refused to accept her reality and persisted in claiming that this was just a passing phase, and suggesting measures like conversion therapies, consulting psychologists, seeing rabbis and dating men.
“It was impossible to talk to her on the subject, each time I tried I felt like she’s having a panic attack and runs away scared,” says Hila. “I was literally afraid for her health.”
For Hila, the next five years continued to remain miserable. All her attempts to convince her mother was a fool’s errand until she met the love of her life.
“I knew I had to fight for acceptance; it’s now or never. My father, brother, sister and I set her down and held an intervention,” she says. After a long, complicated, emotionally exhausting conversation, Hila was able to break the stalemate when her mother agreed to seek guidance from the religious LGBTQ+ community mothers.
Hila’s mother continued to thwart all her daughter’s efforts and declined to meet her girlfriend. “I was hopeless but determined, I was preparing myself for a life of conflicts,” adds Hila.
Surprisingly, however, a silver lining appeared when her mother took the next step. She agreed to be in the same room with Hila’s girlfriend during a big family holiday dinner. “Not long after she said hello, rapidly words became sentences and finally we got an invitation to a family dinner,” says Hila.
The happy wedding
For Hila, her life was turning out to be an arduous task. Even though her mother accepted their reality, she kept it a secret from her friends and extended family. Amidst all this, Hila’s girlfriend proposed to her for marriage.
Hila states, “When my GF asked me to marry her, my mother crawled back in her shell and declared she is not coming to the wedding, we can live together but we shouldn’t make a fuss about it.” Hila’s mother’s action did not damp her spirits; Hila still had a lot of fight left in her.
Hila and her partner planned a traditional Jewish wedding. They altered the chuppah ritual to replace the word groom with bride, and even included a traditional Henna ceremony. However, on Hila’s wedding day, a surprise awaited her.
“Finally, on our wedding day, as we were finishing up the couple photoshoot at the beautiful wedding garden, my father walked in with my mother in his arm!” she exclaims.
Hila’s mother was there with her during the seven blessings. She admits, “it was hard for her but when the henna ceremony started, she was already smiling, and she walked me hand-in-hand wearing the mother’s traditional outfit.”
Hila also underlined that she was overwhelming happy and super proud of her mother to have come out of her own closet for Hila.
From the day Hila came out to the wedding day, her life revolved around love and shame. Therefore, she believes, “LGBTQ+ is crucial; we have to wrap the world with so much love that will take away the shame.”
Advice to the future techies
In her advice to the aspiring testers, she advocates, “Be yourself as much as possible.” To convey in a better way, she also suggests a song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQlJ3vOp6nI
Life beyond work and some real mountainous struggles
Moulin Rouge is Hila’s favorite movie, despite it being a musical.
Besides her computer world, she has tried her hand in filmmaking. She made a documentary film called – Aisha. It is about a special relationship between a 96-year-old lady Aisha and her goat, Buba, venturing briefly on her failed relationships and 11 children.