February 11, 2006
Israel’s Gay Forest
by Malcolm Thornberry, Jerusalem
An Israeli LGBT rights group is planting a forest dedicated to tolerance.The planting of trees has been a tradition in Israel since its founding in 1948 – part of the quest to turn the desert into useable land. Tu Bishvat, or Jewish Arbor day, may be a minor festival but has taken on major flare with celebrations in schools and parties throughout the country.
Next week to celebrate Tu Bishvat the Gay in Galilee Society will plant Pride Forest next to Kibbutz Tuval, just off the road that leads from Carmiel to Ma’alot. It is likely the first gay forest anywhere in the world. "The forest will be planted in the name of tolerance, equality, human rights and the rights of the community to express its bond with the land," the group says. As the tiny saplings grow into adult trees Gay in Galilee hopes that so too LGBT civil rights will grow.
April 4, 2006
Preparations for Int’l Homosexual Event in Jerusalem Under Way in August
by Julie Stahl, CNSNews.com Jerusalem Bureau Chief
An international homosexual event that was postponed last year is now scheduled to be held this summer in Jerusalem. Preparations are well under way, one of the event organizers said on Tuesday.
InterPride, the International Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered (LGBT) Pride Coordinators, decided in 2003 to hold WorldPride 2005 in Jerusalem — a city sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. But the event was postponed last year because of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements, which was scheduled to take place at about the same time. The event is now set to take place in August, and it has been shortened from 10 days to a week. It includes various cultural events as well as a public rally and march through the streets of Jerusalem.
The postponement gave local organizers a "second chance" to condense their program and make it more economically feasible for people to attend, said Haggai El-Ad, executive director of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (JOH), the city’s LGBT center and the local sponsors of the event. "The decision to reschedule won public respect," said El-Ad, because the group took into consideration the "extremely unique circumstances" involved in the disengagement.
El-Ad said people attending the event do not need to register, but JOH is expecting "many thousands" of people to attend. This will be the second event of its kind. The first WorldPride gathering took place in Rome in 2000, when the Vatican was celebrating the second millennium since Jesus’ birth. Critics of the event have charged that it is being held in Jerusalem purposely to offend the religious sensibilities of the city’s residents as well as Jews, Christians and Muslims throughout the world. Strict adherents to those three religions reject homosexual behavior.__But organizers said on their website that the event is intended to "bring a new focus to an ancient city through a massive demonstration of LGBT dignity, pride, and boundary-crossing celebration.
"In these times of intolerance and suspicion, from the home of three of the world’s great religions, we will proclaim the love that knows no borders," the website said. Religious leaders protested plans to hold the event last year, before it was postponed. Things have been quiet so far this year, Haggai said. But on Monday, the head of the ultra-religious Shas party, Eli Yishai, was quoted as saying that "the homosexuals are poisoning the Jewish people’s capital." Leftwing Meretz parliamentarian Zahava Galon reportedly criticized Yishai for expressing "ignorance, racism and prejudice." Last year, in a rare show of solidarity, Israel’s two chief rabbis, leaders in the Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Churches as well as Muslim leaders from Jerusalem and northern Israel, banded together to denounce the international event in Jerusalem and called on the government to intervene. It "will offend the very foundations of our religious values and the character of the Holy City," the leaders said in a joint statement.
This time around, at least one Evangelical group — the Jerusalem Prayer Team led by Mike Evans — has already launched an online petition. Evans urged supporters to gather signatures from friends in an effort to mobilize one million Christians to petition Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski to do everything in his power to stop the WorldPride event. Lupolianski, the city’s first Orthodox Jewish mayor, has been an outspoken critic of public homosexual events in the past.
Last year, the Jerusalem District Court ordered Lupolianski to personally pay 30,000 shekels (about $6,670) and the municipality to pay the same amount to the JOH for trying to halt the annual homosexual "pride" parade in Jerusalem.
USA mailing Address:
American Friends of JOH,
PO Box 1851, New York, NY 10185-1851
April 16, 2006
Jerusalem, Now (Non-gay travelogue)
by Steven Erlanger
Jerusalem is a city built on struggle and rivalry — among gods and tribes and those who misuse them.
Peace is much spoken of here. But at times, as I race along the narrow moral precipice, running between a military checkpoint and a suicide bombing, I think of the old Russian proverb: "We shall struggle for peace so hard that not a tree will be left standing."
There’s enough to see in the Holy City to confirm any prejudice. But when I explore the city where I have lived for nearly two years now, I try to see Jerusalem as a place where both armies and souls contend, as they contended even before monotheism came, dusty and sunburned, out of the desert to vanquish first the Jebusites, and then the Romans.
And I try to see it through various lenses, to be moved both by the Western Wall, with its weight of tragedy and redemption, and by the modern cement one, part of Israel’s separation barrier, with its dual messages of protection and occupation. Even in the most visited places, like the Temple Mount, the holy site known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, there is an abiding sense of struggle, as tribes and religions fight over the narrative of Jerusalem and the custody of its milky tea-colored stones, touched with fire at dawn and sunset.
I first came to Jerusalem in 1983, when Israeli troops were outside Beirut, and I visited frequently with variously optimistic American officials in the Clinton era. Then I spent a month here during the last real war between the Israelis and Palestinians, in the spring of 2002, when suicide bombings were at their peak and Israeli troops reinvaded the West Bank, where they remain. As I rushed from the siege of Bethlehem to a suicide bombing near Tel Aviv, I thought, "these people are nuts," and I wondered if I would ever return.
But in 2004 Yasir Arafat was on his last legs, and Ariel Sharon intended a unilateral pullout from Gaza, and I returned as bureau chief for this newspaper. Today, after a long truce with most Palestinian militants, Jerusalem is calmer. Events this year have been dramatic — Ariel Sharon’s stroke, the formation of a Palestinian government by Hamas, the election of an Israeli government committed to a new West Bank pullout. But the level of violence is down: tourists are returning, restaurants are opening and taxi drivers and tour guides are happier in both sides of the city — the mostly Jewish West and the mostly Arab East.
Jerusalem is at peace, but not with itself. There is anxiety on the streets; every ring on the cellphone thrums with alarm. When I travel between West and East, especially on a Saturday, the city feels fragile, its anxieties cloistered by the wall that surrounds most of the city and cuts through part of it.
For many travelers, that fragility is a compelling reason to visit Jerusalem now to experience an extraordinary city at an extraordinary time, and to see it as a modern city of contention, not just as a Biblical Disneyland.
With its dry climate and high hills, Jerusalem offers some sweeping vistas that reveal millenniums of change.
One of my favorites is the Goldman Promenade in the city’s south. Open for 18 months, it runs close to the Hill of Evil Counsel, once the seat of British governors, now of the United Nations.
The view on a recent morning was revelatory. To the left was the Kidron Valley, where the Jebusite city that King David seized for his capital perches on a small hill. Above it rises the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, with its golden Dome of the Rock, perfectly aligned with the domes of Al Aksa mosque.
To the west is the Old City in its quadrants, constructed by the Romans after they razed the Jewish one, the extended city walls, and the reach of modern Jerusalem, Israel’s largest city and one of its poorest. In the center is the sprawl of East Jerusalem and the Palestinian town of Abu Dis, where some once thought a Palestinian state might have its capital, and where I once visited the eerie shell of an unfinished parliament building, full of spiders.
Off to the right, toward Jordan, there is a stark view of Israel’s separation barrier, with sections of road, electronic fencing and concrete wall, nine yards high, hugging the hills as it divides Jerusalem from the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem and Beit Jala. You can follow its route quite a long way — not perhaps what the sponsors of the promenade had in mind. But it’s a good metaphor for where we are: good walls may make good neighbors, but not if they take too much of the neighbor’s land.
In the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo, which lies to the southwest within an expanded, annexed, post-1967 Jerusalem, there is a concrete wall on Ahlama Street, painted by Russian immigrants to show the landscape now hidden. The wall was erected to protect a kindergarten from gunfire from Beit Jala, which rises above Gilo on the other side of the valley.
Avi Ben Hur, the American-turned-Israeli-turned-guide who accompanied me here, pointed out another panorama, from nearby Haanafa Street. On a hill above a scraggly olive grove, belonging to Palestinians but cut off from Beit Jala by the barrier, is the Israeli neighborhood of Har Homa, resembling a gigantic stone fortress. Built by Israel after the 1993 Oslo accords on land partly expropriated from Palestinians, this neighborhood once prompted riots and international protests.
Har Homa, too, was outside Jerusalem before 1967. Now, with its winding streets and shops, it looks like a suburb. It’s what Israelis like to call one of the "facts on the ground."
In the City of David
I come to the City of David not only to feel the beginnings of this place, but to remind myself about how even archaeology is used as a weapon in the struggle over the land.
This is ur-Jerusalem, the tiny, Jebusite city where David decided to place his new capital in about 1000 B.C. to unite the 12 tribes of Israel; it’s completely outside the current walls of the so-called Old City. The stepped stone structure of the original walls protected the city above the Kidron Valley (much deeper then) and guarded the Gihon Spring, the water source that made a city possible.
Here, where the Israelites conquered the Jebusites, in annexed East Jerusalem, there is a battle going on over history. The Jewish foundation that runs this site supports Jews moving into East Jerusalem, which enrages the Palestinians who live here. It also helps sponsor a compelling, archaeological dig for more than a year now that may show that King David wasn’t just another tribal chieftain on a dusty hilltop.
The dig is part of the broader political battle over Jerusalem, an effort to make more explicit the roots of Judaism here and buttress the justice of creating a Jewish state here after World War II. It’s also part of an archeological fight — whether the Bible is any accurate guide to history, or a tale embroidered for political ends. Eilat Mazar, an archaeologist, believes she may have found King David’s palace, and explained to me why. "When the Philistines came to fight, the Bible said that David went down from his house to the fortress," she said. "Maybe it meant something, maybe not. But I wondered, down from where? Presumably from where he lived, his palace. So I said, maybe there’s something here."
Other archaeologists believe she may have found the Fortress of Zion that David conquered, or something else. But all agree she made a major find: a large public building dating from around the 10th century B.C., the time of David and Solomon. I watch Ms. Mazar and her team work at real archaeology as I walk over a metal-grid platform and stare down at the wide walls, over seven feet thick, that they’ve uncovered.
Farther down the hill, you can also see evidence of the extensive dam and tunnel system dug by King Hezekiah in 700 B.C. to ensure that water from the Gihon Spring could be brought inside the walls of the city when the Assyrians besieged it, and to hide the spring itself from enemy eyes. The huge cistern appears to be Caananite, and it is oddly moving to hear the water rushing as it did two millenniums ago. I note the irony of the Palestinian workers, who see themselves as descendants of the Caananites, laboring for the Israeli Antiquities Authority in a tourist area controlled by a foundation that wants to implant more Jews in their neighborhood, Silwan.
Silwan is a corruption of the name of the original Siloam pool, where the 580-yard tunnel leads. Built by Herod and only recently discovered, the pool is where the blind man was told to come by Jesus to wash his eyes and see (John 9). Looking at these stones that for 2,000 years had never seen sunlight, and at a delicate, three-leaf drain cover for rainwater, I imagine the beauty of the city before the Romans razed it after the great revolt in A.D. 70.
I left the site, near the Siloam pool, and walked onto the dusty Palestinian street, with kids playing soccer in the hot March sun. As I walked toward a kiosk for some water, I spotted a roughly built cage of metal fencing, chest high, that looked like the exit of a garbage-strewn sewer. In fact it’s an outlet from the Gihon Spring, originally built to bring water to the fields of the Kidron Valley.
Battle for the Holy Sepulcher
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is both a holy and a crazy place, with its mishmash of architectural styles and furious intra-Christian battles over turf, procession times and even maintenance. To alter the position of the ratty wooden ladder under the window above the entrance would cause a furor because it would change the 1852 "status quo" agreement, made by the churches at a time when the area was under Ottoman rule. Every Orthodox Easter, the Armenians and the Greeks battle over the Holy Fire ceremony on the spot where Jesus’s tomb is believed to have been, and Israeli police sometimes intervene to separate the tussling clerics.
Victoria Clark’s book about the church, "Holy Fire: The Battle for Christ’s Tomb" (Macmillan 2005), details the spats — the war of the doormat, the battling over chairs. If an Egyptian Copt can place a chair in the Ethiopian courtyard, all could be lost in the struggle for the rooftop.
But this is also the place where the pagan Romans tried and failed to wipe out the rebel Jews and the new Christian sect. The Romans, like Americans, says Avner Goren, an archeologist and guide, had their vision of how best to organize human communities — in cities of a certain design, with sanitation and walls and straight streets. "They brought their one truth to this place of many truths and faiths," he says, pointing to the site of the new Roman city they built, now the "Old City." The Roman effort to eradicate the early Christians lasted about 250 years. Eventually, Constantine decided to take the religion of what had become the majority of his subjects, and his mother, Helena, and he built a new church where Jesus had been crucified, where Hadrian had put a temple to Aphrodite. " All that’s left of the Romans here," says Mr. Goren, "is the pattern of the roads."
The Temple Mount
The struggles over the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif — where Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac, where the Jewish temples stood and where Muhammad ascended to heaven — are fundamental, with fanatics of both faiths wanting to expunge the other. Yet this is one of my favorite places in Jerusalem — grassy, shaded by trees and deceptively calm.
While I sit on a stone wall and look at the intricate tiles of the Dome of the Rock, some Jews are plotting to destroy it and Al Aksa mosque and build a third temple. Some evangelical Christians hope they’ll do it, thinking that only then will Jesus return. Some Muslims are convinced that the Jews are burrowing underground to create a new synagogue. Jews are upset that the Muslims dug into the hill at the site of Solomon’s Stables in 1996 to create a new underground mosque, the Marwani. It’s here, on the ground revered by both Judaism and Islam, where Jerusalem is most divided — and most volatile.
And it’s here that Mr. Sharon made a controversial visit in September 2000, which many Muslims say set off the second (Al Aksa) intifada. Since then, non-Muslims may not enter the mosques on the Haram al-Sharif without permission.
Only an eighth of the Western Wall is visible on the plaza where worshippers gather. To see more, and in a more private way, I like to go through the Wall Tunnel, again by appointment, which cuts underground, along a 2,000-year-old street alongside the wall, and exits on the Via Dolorosa.
When Israel opened the tunnel in 1996 without informing the Islamic authorities, there were riots and nearly 100 deaths. As the tunnel comes closest to the site of the Holy of Holies, many people pray at the massive Herodian stones in the near dark. But I like to go to another spot to see the wall, less well-known and less crowded, near the Iron Gate. It’s known as the Hakotel Hakatan, with a sign only in Hebrew. Here, men and women are not segregated, and many ultra-Orthodox come to pray. I watch them, as the wall rises high above me, and Arab homes surround us on three sides.
The Separation Barrier
Jerusalem’s other wall, which Israelis call the security fence and the Palestinians the apartheid wall, should also be seen at close hand. In fact, of the 450 miles of the unfinished barrier, only 5 percent is concrete wall, but much of that is in and around Jerusalem.
I try to see the barrier from both the Palestinian and the Israeli points of view. But whatever its utility, it’s an ugly scar on the mental and physical landscape of the city, and beyond. Israel insists one minute that it’s temporary, and the next that it’s a prospective border. Palestinians excoriate it for annexing land they consider theirs, but many Jerusalemites, Palestinians who have lived here for generations, hate it for cutting some of their neighborhoods from the central city, forcing them to use checkpoints. I often take visitors north, along the road built on top of the pre-1967 border between Israeli West Jerusalem and Jordanian East Jerusalem, past the old Mandelbaum Gate and the American Colony Hotel, toward Ramallah. Soon the wall divides the street, and the shops get ramshackle, and then there’s the massive checkpoint of Qalandiya. Sometimes I don’t even go through the checkpoint. I just get out and look at the people trudging through the dust or the mud, putting up with the questions and the searches that, however humiliating, sometimes prevent a terrorist from attaining his aim.
It’s the most telling glimpse I can offer of this modern city of struggle. Travel, after all, is about encounter.
As of April 3, the cost of flying from Kennedy Airport to Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv started at under $1,000 round trip on Continental or El Al, booked a month in advance. You can travel to Jerusalem, 31 miles away, by taxi, which costs about 200 to 220 shekels (about $44 to $49, at 4.5 shekels to the dollar). A sherut, a shared taxi-minibus costs about $10. Prices are often quoted in dollars or euros instead of shekels.
Where To Stay
The two obvious choices are the King David Hotel in West Jerusalem (9722-620-8888; www.danhotels.com) and the American Colony Hotel on Nablus Road in East Jerusalem (9722-627-9777; www.americancolony.com). Both are elegant, with food that is just above mediocre. The King David, where doubles range from $298 to $444, has one of the most pleasant balconies in the city; the American Colony, with doubles starting at $255, has the city’s most charming courtyard.
Cheaper alternatives include the YMCA Three Arches (9722-569-2692; www.ymca3arch.co.il), across from the King David; the Ambassador, Nablus Road, Sheikh Jarrah (9722-541-2222, www.jerusalemambassador.com, and the Austrian Hospice, 37 Via Dolorosa, 9722-626-5800, www.austrianhospice.com.
What To See
The City of David (9722-626-2341, www.cityofdavid.org.il) costs 23 shekels to explore alone, 50 shekels for a group tour or 260 for a private tour. At the Jerusalem Architectural Park (Davidson Center, 627-7550; www.archpark.org.il) near the Dung Gate, admission is 30 shekels. Church of the Holy Sepulcher, on Helena Street in the Christian quarter, is open 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tours must be reserved at the Western Wall Tunnel (9722-627-1333; www.thekotel.org). Some women’s groups tour after midnight. The cost is 18 shekels.
The Qalandiya checkpoint is open 24/7.
Steven Erlanger is chief of the Jerusalem bureau of The Times Eilat: 500 take part in Gay Pride Parade
May 19, 2006
5th Gay Pride Parade in Eilat
In addition to transgenders, gays and lesbians, event also attracted dozens of straight men and women who paraded along city’s main avenue all the way to Papaya Beach; gay community irate over cancellation of Tel Aviv parade this year _Meir Ochayon Some 500 people participated Friday in the 5th Gay Pride Parade in Eilat. In addition to the transgenders, gays and lesbians on hand, the event also attracted dozens of local straight men and women who paraded along the city’s main avenue all the way to Papaya Beach, where the festivities took place.
Despite the relatively low number of participants this year, organizers said they are convinced thousands more will flock to Israel’s southernmost city for Friday night’s party on Dekel Beach. This year’s parade was secured by an unprecedented number of police officers, who closed the city’s main street for traffic. Unlike previous years, when the local municipality hung Gay Parade banners along the streets, this time participants made due with flags supplied by gay community members.
‘My friends and I are very upset’ The parade in Eilat attracted many gay community members from central Israel who were disappointed by the cancellation of the annual Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade. “ It’s a shame they called the Tel Aviv parade off,” Givatayim resident Idan Arbiv, 25, said. “This is one of the most colorful events there is, and I have no doubt in my mind that next year they will realize what a huge mistake they made.”
Tel Aviv resident Adam Mishali, 20, who also made the trip to Eilat, was disappointed with the cancellation of the parade in his home town. “ My friends and I are very upset ; we understand that they plan to move the festivities to Jerusalem, but we do not plan on going,” he said. Liat from Haifa said holding “there is no other place, certainly not Jerusalem, with the openness that is exhibited at the Tel Aviv parade; it would just be a waste to hold the parade in Jerusalem.” The Eilat Gay Parade festivities will conclude Saturday night with a party at the Touch nightclub in the city.
Israel Gay Youth organizatiion (IGY)
Israeli Gay Youth or IGY was founded in 2002 in Israel as a non-profitable NGO, branching off from the “Aguda”, the largest GLBT organization in Israel. Currently the founder of IGY, Yaniv Weitzman, is the chairman of the organization. Recently IGY had a hostile brake off from its mother organization, the “Aguda”, due to management conflicts between the two bodies. Ever since the establishment of IGY, the organization had rapidly grown in to one of the largest and most widespread GLBT organizations in Israel, active in 16 cities across the country and reaching communities that are out of the big cities of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. IGY organizes activities for gay youth between the ages of 15-18 and 18-21.
These activities are based on the structure of social group meetings, support group meetings, and topic group meetings, which break off into youth leader promoting social change and acceptance, groups for religious or transgender youth, feminist groups, creative groups such as theater groups and so on. IGY organizes many events such as parties, fundraisers and cultural events all for the benefit of gay youth activities and for gay youth themselves.
Since the establishment and rapid growth of the organization, there has been a major change in the daily life of youth that categorize them selves in the GLBT sexual minorities. A substantial percentage of GLBT or confused youth, from all areas of Israel, are now able to find a supporting atmosphere where IGY activities take place. Gay youth in Israel have the unique privilege of speaking freely about their sexuality, confusion and difficulties that surround homosexuality, without needing facing the judgment of society. Although the future seems bright because of organization like IGY, still much work needs to be done before true social change occurs in Israel in order for organizations like IGY will not be needed.
June 9, 2006
Gay drama in Holy City
This year’s World Pride in Jerusalem is facing international controversy as an anti-Israel group have called for a boycott of the event.
The Coalition to Boycott World Pride Jerusalem have support from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism. QUIT’s website states:“The theme of the event is "love without borders," which is particularly ironic given that this city was initially declared by the UN in 1947 to be an international zone. “Israel occupied half of it in 1948, and the other half in 1967 and has annexed the entire city. Walls and soldiers form a very strong border that is often insurmountable to Palestinians, queer and straight”. Diane Langford, Women’s Officer for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said: “Jerusalem is such an appalling choice of venue, exactly the kind of endorsement the colonial power seeks, end the occupation, justice for Palestine, peace and justice and civil rights for LGBT Palestinians!"
Peter Tatchell of Outrage! was unimpressed with the Coalition’s philosophy, stating: “Boycotting oppressive Israeli institutions is justified, but boycotting a celebration of queer life, culture and human rights is a reactionary stance that plays into the hands of homophobes. “A boycott of World Pride in Jerusalem would not aid the queer or Palestinian struggles. It would cause rejoicing by homophobic fundamentalists from the Christian, Judaist and Muslim faiths – all of whom want World Pride banned.” It’s rare that religious leaders in the Holy City agree on any issue, but World Pride has done the impossible and led to a unification. Jewish, Christian and Islamic superiors have condemned the event, proving equally homophobic and amusingly dramatic. "They are creating a deep and terrible sorrow that is unbearable," Shlomo Amar, Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi said. "We can’t permit anybody to come and make the Holy City dirty," declared Abdel Aziz Bukhari, a Sufi sheik.
Muslim cleric Abdel-Salem Menasra warned World Pride would end in disaster for the city. "I’m warning everybody, God will destroy Jerusalem together with the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims," he said.
Jerusalem WorldPride runs from August 6-12 2006.
June 26, 2006
WorldPride organizers undaunted amid protests, pledge safe event
by Matthew S. Bajko (email@example.com)
Antigay forces in Israel will stop at nothing, it seems, to derail this year’s WorldPride, to be held in Jerusalem in August. They continue to circulate a petition calling for the cancellation of the event, and in recent weeks, have threatened to go to court to try to put an end to the celebration. The petition, supposedly signed by more than 100,000 people, states that "holding the gay pride parade, especially in Jerusalem, severely harms the city’s unique Jewish character and constitutes an act of defiance, purposeful disrespect and a challenge to everything holy in the city of Jerusalem in the eyes of the whole world. This will be wept about for generations and we must prevent it now." Jerusalem’s mayor and 23 out of 31 city council members have signed the petition.
Failing a court order banning WorldPride, a counterevent to the LGBT festival called the Modesty Parade is planned just days before the international gathering. Pushed by conservative religious leaders, they expect 20,000 people to march through the streets to "denunciate the abomination and defilement, will vomit out its participants from among us and will set fire to their infection," according to Israeli media accounts. Hagai El-Ad, executive director of Jerusalem Open House, the main organizer of WorldPride, denounced the continued efforts against the event. In a statement released to the media, he declared that the latest moves by religious and political extremists will fail and WorldPride will go forward as planned.
" The Jerusalem courts have decreed that WorldPride deserves the support of the city, and that pride is a protected form of freedom of speech. The Jerusalem public has shown its support for Pride by attending it in the thousands over the past years. In addition, WorldPride is receiving the unconditional support of thousands of individuals and scores of groups around the world who will converge in Jerusalem in August to discuss and debate important issues in our community – from religion to politics to health to youth," he said in the statement. "WorldPride will be a historic and diverse international event bringing together lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied people proclaiming to the world that we too are people of faith and that we will not allow anyone to hijack our religions, our freedom or our rights."
Nevertheless, the vehemence against WorldPride and renewed fighting between Israel and Palestinian groups are ratcheting up security concerns for the 20,000 people expected to take part in the weeklong event beginning on August 6 and ending August 12. The highlight with be the march and rally Thursday, August 10. There is reason to worry. A stabbing marred last year’s Jerusalem Pride Parade and violence flamed by antigay rhetoric has broken out at several Pride events in Eastern Europe this year. But WorldPride organizers insist the event will be a safe one and note they have been working closely with the local police on implementing security measures at the event. In an interview earlier this month while visiting the Bay Area to promote WorldPride, El-Ad insisted attendees should not worry about their safety. " We are taking security very seriously," he said.
San Francisco resident Julie Dorf, one of two U.S. co-chairs for WorldPride, is unfazed about security concerns. She plans to bring her 7-year-old daughter Hazel to the event. " I am not really concerned. I have spoken extensively with the organizers about their security plans," said Dorf, a former executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. "Because of what happened last year the police won’t let the counterprotesters near us." Dorf, who is Jewish, has committed to raising $150,000 for the event. She said she became involved in order to take part in a worldwide statement of tolerance. " I felt it was important that we had a significant and thoughtful international response to the coordinated religious intolerance of gay people worldwide. For me personally, it is also an important opportunity to dive into the difficult issues between Israel and Palestine," said Dorf. "I also want to expose my daughter to what’s wonderful about the country and what’s complicated about the country. I haven’t been since I was 18 – 24 years ago."
The Israelis’ WorldPride event encapsulates the country’s ongoing political and cultural battles. Originally, Jerusalem Open House won the right to host the international gathering in the summer of 2005, but just weeks before the planned activities were to kickoff, organizers canceled it. Due to the country’s pullout of the Gaza Strip, the police said they could no longer staff the LGBT event. Religious conservatives are not the only ones against seeing the event take place in Jerusalem. LGBT progressives upset over how Israel treats the Palestinian people have called for a boycott of WorldPride almost from the moment Interpride accepted the bid from Jerusalem Open House three years ago.
Haneen Maikey, Open House’s Palestinian community programming director, said while she does not share the same views as the people advocating the boycott, she does accept their right to such viewpoints. She said she hopes those who disagree with Israeli policies do attend the event to voice their opinions and create a dialogue. " My message is, come to WorldPride. This is an open stage and we want people to bring their voices to it," said Maikey, who is Palestinian and grew up in Galalie. "Israel and Palestine is a very complicated place. The LGBT community is a part of this reality. I hope participants in WorldPride get to see how the community is dealing with this complexity of living together and how GLBTs, whether Israelis, Muslims, Palestinians, or Christians, are trying to do this together."
As for worries about security at the event, Maikey said, "It is always a concern but we are taking all the considerations to make it a safe event." For more information about WorldPride visit www.worldpride.net.
July 02, 2006
Strange Parliamentary Union Opposes Gay Pride
In a somewhat unexpected move, members of the right-wing and Arab parties have joined forces against a common enemy, seeking to prevent the scheduled Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem. MK (National Union) Rabbi Yitzchak Levy and MK (Ta’al) Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsor are leading the Knesset battle to prevent the parade from taking place. The two have begun obtaining signatures of MKs opposing the march, and are calling attention to a specially commissioned poll, which shows 69% of the capital’s residents oppose the parade while 12% support it.
Some opponents stated that interestingly, among the respondents to the poll, 63% of the non-Torah observant community opposes the parade while 37% support it. Among the National Religious camp, 99% object to the parade.
Police weigh banning J’lem gay parade
by Etgar Lefkovits
Jerusalem police are expected to decide this week?whether to allow a controversial international gay?pride parade to take place in the city this summer amidst growing international opposition to the event by an unusual coalition of religious Christians, Jews, and Muslims around the world. The super-sensitive police decision, which will be?taken by Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter in?consultation with Jerusalem police chief Ilan Franco, comes after months of simmering tension over the planned August event, with concerns growing of a violent showdown between extremist opponents of the parade and its participants if it goes ahead as scheduled.
The planned week-long international gay festival,?which was originally scheduled to take place last year but was postponed until August due to last summer’s concomitant Gaza pullout, has been widely criticized by a coterie of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious leaders in Jerusalem and around the world as a deliberate provocation and affront to millions of believers around the world. Supporters of the event counter that freedom of speech enables them to hold the event in Jerusalem, as a symbol of tolerance, pluralism, and love for all humanity.
In the latest move against the parade, Israeli and?American Rabbinical leaders, who have been cooperating closely with Muslim religious leaders on the issue, have written to the Pope, asking him to issue a public condemnation against the event, in the hopes of increasing Christian opposition to the move."We ask your Excellency to issue an emotional, strong, and unequivocal call against this horrible phenomenon, in the hope that the amalgamation of protests being voiced by religious leaders… will prevent the willful wrongdoers to damage and corrupt the ways of?humanity," Chief Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar wrote Pope Benedict XVI in a letter this week. "If we have any chance of preventing this blasphemy, it is only if the leaders and practitioners of the other faiths speak loudly, unequivocally and often as to the absolutely outrageous provocation that this anti-God convention constitutes," New York Rabbi Yehuda Levin, of the Orthodox ‘Rabbinical Alliance of?America’ and the ‘Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the US and Canada’ wrote in a separate letter to the Pontiff.Levin, who has been at the forefront of the public?campaign in Israel against the event for the past two and half years, said that he has discussed the?possibility of religious leaders announcing that they would lie down in the streets of Jerusalem as part of a non-violent protest to arouse worldwide opposition to the planned event."This is not the homo-land, this is the Holy Land," he said, decrying the planned "spiritual?rape of Jerusalem." The American Rabbi said that he has accumulated the signatures of at least 40 Knesset Members – including both religious and secular parliamentarians – in a petition against the event.
The Knesset will take up the issue Tuesday during a special meeting of the Interior Committee devoted to the issue. In a rare sign of interfaith cooperation, Israeli Arab parliamentarians have joined haredi and Christian leaders in issuing calls against the event, as have Islamic religious leaders, including the chief Palestinian Islamic cleric Taisser Tamimi. The prerogative for issuing permits for such public events rests with police, who could ban the move due to concerns over public safety. Both opponents and supporters of the event have?inundated police with letters and faxes on the issue, officials said. Meanwhile, organizers of the event, who have the?support of scores of non-Orthodox Jewish religious?leaders, reiterated Sunday that they are determined to hold the international event in Jerusalem next month.
"The World pride event will take place in Jerusalem because we believe Jerusalem should be a center of tolerance, pluralism, and humanity. Unfortunately, there are those who prefer Jerusalem to be fanatical, dark, pursuing strife and hatred," said Noa Sattath, chairperson of Jerusalem’s Gay and Lesbian Center which is hosting the event. She ruled out any change of venue for the event, as some Knesset members have suggested as part of a compromise solution.
In a largely conservative city, with a strong?religious and traditional makeup, the idea of holding such an international parade in Jerusalem is seen by many city residents — even outside of religious circles — as out of touch with both the spiritual character of the city as well as the sensitivities of its observant residents.A public opinion poll released last year found that three-quarters of Jerusalem residents were opposed to holding the international gay event in the city, while only a quarter supported it.The last international gay parade, which took place in Rome in 2000 despite the wrath of the Vatican, attracted about half a million participants, while local organizers expect tens of thousands of revelers for the Jerusalem event this summer.
The six-day event is slated to include street parties, workshops, and a gay film festival.
Arutz Sheva – IsraelNationalNews.com
July 05, 2006
What Can Be Learned From the International Gay Pride Parade
by Ze´ev Orenstein
This summer, the International Gay Pride Parade is scheduled to take place in
Why is the likelihood of this Gay-fest ever getting off the ground shrouded in doubt?
Simply because the police recognize that there is such overwhelming opposition to this parade, regardless of what the
Can one truly believe that a Gay-fest in the heart of Jerusalem is significantly worse than the destruction of over a dozen Jewish communities in the Land of Israel, handing those communities over to those who actively seek our very destruction, along with the expulsion of about 10,000 Jews from their homes, turning them into refugees within their very own homeland? Contrary to the response of those opposed to the International Gay Pride Parade, when it came to the expulsion of 10,000 Jews from their homes and the destruction of Jewish communities in the
Calls for soldiers to refuse orders were rejected out of hand, a coordinated campaign of non-violent civil disobedience was casually dismissed; all while the leaders of the "opposition" to the expulsion plan stressed time and again the supreme importance of maintaining national unity, above all else.
Is it any wonder that the struggle against
The secret to success in future struggles over the
July 6, 2006
Gay leader not daunted by Muslim threat
In response to MK Ibrahim Sarsur’s threat that homosexuals who dare to approach Temple Mount during World Pride 2006 will do so over Muslims’ dead bodies, Charles Merrill says ‘I will be approaching the Temple Mount out of love and forgiveness to those who hate us’ Last week a Muslim leader, Knesset Member Ibrahim Sarsur (United Arab List-Ta’al), warned gays that "if they dare to approach the
The Open House organization said in response that there is no intention to march toward the
July 7, 2006
Gay parade leaves
Ultra-Orthodox politicians join Islamic Movement, chief rabbi enlists pope. Result: Homosexuals, lesbians from across globe to apparently not march in capital
Neta Sela – Political pressures have apparently worked: Ynet has learned that WorldPride 2006, the global gay pride parade, which was scheduled to be held next month in
Officially, sources at the police explained that the reason for moving the parade is the Jerusalem Police’s fear in light of the event’s size and complexity, which will make it difficult to secure it. "Tel Aviv is more used to such events, and therefore it should take place there also this time," a police official said. However,
Behind the scenes, politicians, public figures and rabbis worked against the parade. Even the pope got involved in the affair, following a letter sent to him by Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar. Now it appears that the parade’s opposers were also backed by Justice Minister Haim Ramon. Ynet has learned that on Wednesday, Ramon met with Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai (Shas), who told Ramon that "indeed there is an issue of freedom of expression, but on the other hand there is also the public’s benefit."
According to Yishai, the justice minister replied that there is a legal problem with completely cancelling the parade, but he definitely supported the idea to remove it from
Efrat Weiss contributed to the report
July 9, 2006
Religion, tolerance and gay parade
by Rabbi Jeremy Rosen, Daily Jews
Fundamentalists across the religions have more in common with each other than they do with liberal members of their own religion. The gay parade’s saga is the ultimate example
In an uncharacteristic show of unanimity, the Jewish, Muslim and Christian clerics of
The issue of Gay Rights and parades actually highlights the strength and the weakness of much of religious opinion. This is precisely the sort of thing that all fundamentalists point to when they excoriate the decadence of the West. ‘If,’ they argue, ‘Western culture and values permit and encourage such practices, then we must oppose them by withdrawing into or own communities and fight for our own traditional values and ground.’ The more liberal society becomes, the greater the pressure to offer a counterbalance. And, it must be said, the notable resurgence in orthodoxies of all religions attests to the power and attractiveness of such a position. Orthodoxies are on the increase, while liberals are, in general, assimilating out of their religious communities (although numbers don’t prove anything-otherwise we’d all have to be Chinese Communists).
Is the earth still flat?
Of course the intellectual position of fundamentalism is riddled with inconsistencies, even if orthodoxies have an amazing capacity to justify their own circularity of thought. ‘We are right and everyone else is wrong, even when we are manifestly wrong and everyone else is right.’ After all, there are still people who believe the earth is flat and others that the world has been visited by creatures from space.
What modernity has added to life, and even to religion, is the importance and value of individuality and personal freedom. This can mean switching from one sect or body of practice within a religion, something rare in the past except for major revolutions or new movements. It has also allowed for a great deal of movement within urban communities-shul-hopping as well as community-hopping. It has also allowed for people to pursue personal agendas, from celibacy to homosexuality, from role-swapping to wife-swapping. In one way, the battle lines are drawn over this issue of individual freedom.
Yet, in fact, even within Orthodoxy individuals choose to ignore demands or dictates of their religious leaders on issues such as lavish celebrations, watching television, use of the internet and of mobile phones, to mention only the most obvious. So, in effect, a mood has developed within parts of Orthodoxy that allows for, tolerates or looks benignly on ‘exceptions’, ‘individualists’, or ‘eccentrics’ so long as they do not publicly flout or challenge their norms.
Both sides are guilty
Without taking sides, it seems to me that the Orthodox world, while not agreeing that homosexuality is a normative lifestyle or equivalent to heterosexuality, does usually choose not to make an issue of it and even, rarely, to be positively benign. Of course, in liberal terms this is not enough, but in Orthodox terms this is a significant concession.
One might argue that the Orthodox world consistently seems to brush its problems, particularly the sexual ones, under the carpet and therefore, its opponents might argue that forcing it to recognize ‘others’ by giving them a bloodied nose might get somewhere. If only. Sadly, it always has the opposite effect. But it’s not a question of giving in, so much as finding other ways of winning battles. Problems always arise when one side in a cultural or religious divide tries to impose its views and demands on others. This has happened in
In a democracy one allows freedom of action, provided one is not affecting others or impinging upon them. The truth is that both sides of the divide are guilty of insensitivity and of imposition.
Live and let live
Maybe it is because of Orthodox coercion that gays feel the need to parade within
Orthodoxies put a lot of emphasis on ‘modesty.’ I happen to think in our day and age we have gone too far in overt and public display of intimacy. Those who want to flaunt their sexuality in public need to stop and think and realize it is as hurtful to others as is the crude hatred and antipathy that is directed towards them. It is sad that human nature seems to be so much more willing for a fight than for amicable accommodation. In a free society one simply has to learn to live and let live. This allows people to choose their own personal lifestyles as well as allowing for abuses. But letting the other ‘live’, cuts both ways. At the moment it seems to me that both sides are wrong in their different ways.
Sadly, this is an example of gratuitous offence from people who ought to know better, if only because they too have suffered from intolerance. The fact that this is taking place in
Juyl 11, 2006
A leaflet distributed in several neighborhoods in
The parade has generated much opposition from many religious groups in the city who are opposed to the holding of such a parade in
The Global News Service
July 24, 2006
To opponents’ delight, conflict delays gay parade in Jerusalem
Jerusalem — In light of ongoing fighting on
Police also had indicated that they might not be able to protect the three-hour event due to potentially violent opposition and
Police officials said anywhere from dozens to “hundreds of thousands” of protesters had intended to confront parade participants “with the goal of hurting them physically.” Even with reinforcements from other districts, police might not have been able to allow the parade in its requested format, according to a July 20 letter to El-Ad from Jerusalem District Police Chief Ilan Franco’s office. At the same time, due to ongoing fighting and general security concerns, “the level of vigilance has increased” and police might not permit assemblies and parades to take place. Additional intelligence that cast doubt on the police’s ability to secure the parade also had been obtained, the letter said.
Organizers suggested alternate parade routes, to no avail. Regardless of whether the parade is held, American synagogues and Jewish groups will be sending delegations to
The delegation from Congregation Beth Simchat Torah is to leave Aug. 5, and will be joined in
“I can tell you that we’re not going to be satisfied until all events associated with this, and Jerusalem Open House itself, is closed down,” he said. Levin, who spent the past two months in
Research showing an alleged correlation between gay pride events and new HIV cases in those populations has been collected and is being provided to senior Israeli health officials, Levin said. He and other opponents called on the municipality “to make an emergency ruling” forbidding gay pride gatherings in
Jerusalem City Councilwoman Mina Fenton, who worked with a group of Orthodox mothers to collect signatures for a petition opposing the parade, said she, too, will continue to fight such events. “We will carry on fighting now, so that it’s never, ever in
A fervently Orthodox man was convicted to 12 years in prison for stabbing three participants at the event, which organizers say drew roughly 10,000 people from around the country. Earlier this month, a handful of anonymous anti-parade flyers were found in the fervently Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim, offering a reward of some $4,500 for killing homosexuals. Noa Sattath, chairwoman of Jerusalem Open House, said she was saddened by the parade’s delay but remained hopeful that the political situation would improve dramatically in coming weeks.
“I think this is a very important struggle. It’s important for us to win it,” Sattath said. “Our chances in the public eye, inside our community and within the legal system are better when there is no war going on in the background or foreground.”
El-Ad agreed. Once the situation settles, he said, “I’m confident that the police, perhaps with the assistance of the Supreme Court, will reach this realization” that they’re obligated to protect freedom of speech and the public’s right to demonstrate. Kleinbaum, who also is North American co-chairwoman of WorldPride, said “there’s no question it will be a smaller event” with the parade delayed, but the important thing is “the message that we’re bringing: Tolerance is holy.”
J’lem gay parade called off due to war
Open House announces cancellation of parade, which was scheduled for August 10, but says other gay pride events will take place as planned. ‘We are determined to fight for our right to march in Jerusalem this year,’ organization’s director says YnetThe Open House Organization announced Friday that the World Pride parade, which was scheduled to take place on August 10 in Jerusalem, has been called off due to the war in Lebanon.However, the other gay pride events will take place as scheduled, the group said in a statement.HatredPrize offerred to whoever kills gay person / Neta SelaEscalation in haredi resistance to WorldPride Parade in Jerusalem: Flyers denouncing parade distributed in mailboxes promise NIS 20,000 to ‘whoever causes death to one of Sodom and Gomorrah people’
Full Story "http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3273891,00.html" This is not the time for celebrations,” Open House said. “The parade, which requires extensive security, will not take place due to the situation.”The organization said the parade will be held with the improvement of the security situation in the country.“The gay pride events will take place as scheduled in a format that is sensitive to the situation and as part of the continued democratic struggle for a free Jerusalem,” the statement said. “These events, along with the conventions, exhibits, performances and film festival will all take place as planned.”
Open House Director Hagai Elad said, “we are determined to fight for our right to march in Jerusalem this year; we will not succumb to the violent incitement against our community and against all the proponents of democracy in Jerusalem.”
July 26, 2006
Broad opposition to World Pride in Jerusalem
by Wyatt Buchanan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Religious, gay leaders criticize international event; crisis in Lebanon ends parade plans
An international gay pride event scheduled to take place in Jerusalem in less than two weeks is facing unprecedented opposition not only from religious leaders in the city, but from elements of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities worldwide.Already, the violence between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon has led to the cancellation of a planned parade, the centerpiece of the five-day World Pride Week. With many of the security personnel needed to guarantee the safety of marchers diverted to northern Israel, city police denied the parade a permit.The first attempt to hold World Pride in Jerusalem in 2005 was postponed until this year because of tensions surrounding Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.But organizers remain determined to hold the weeklong event in the Holy City, a place of "intense bigotry and opposition," said Hagai El-Ad, executive director of Jerusalem Open House, the gay and lesbian community center in the city that is hosting World Pride."People who come to Jerusalem and participate in World Pride are here for a great variety of reasons. The major one that brings us all together is making a powerful statement in the world’s city of Jerusalem, claiming this powerful symbol for what we believe in," El-Ad said during a press conference Tuesday.This will be the second World Pride event.
The first took place in Rome in July 2000, during the Roman Catholic Church’s Jubilee celebration and was condemned by the pope.The organizers would not estimate how many people they expect to attend this year’s week, which starts Aug. 6. It includes an interfaith conference on religious participation, a youth day with a meeting at the Knesset and a rally at the wall that separates Israel from the West Bank. About 60 Bay Area residents plan to attend, according to a San Francisco organizer.Organizers are devoting a day of the pride week to "… express(ing) our solidarity with our community’s members who will not be able to be part of World Pride," and many mainstream gay and lesbian organizations in the United States support the event.But the barrier Israel is constructing to create a de facto boundary with the West Bank and the limits Israel places on who can enter the country have alienated some gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups that might have taken part in the event.Gay and lesbian rights groups in Middle East countries outside Israel have declared they will not participate.
"At the same time that we celebrate our pride, the Palestinians are going to suffer and be under curfew," says a statement from a Palestinian lesbian group called Aswat (Voices).The Lebanese gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender group Helem is calling for a boycott:"Human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent, and the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender (people) should not be placed in competition with the long struggle of the Palestinian people, including Palestinian LGBT people."Given the barrier and tight border security, some of the groups opposed to the event have called its theme — "Love Without Borders" — unfortunate.On one Web site calling for a boycott of the event, 22 organizations offer their support, including Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism, a Berkeley group, Queers for Peace and Justice and left wing and pro-Palestinian groups.Executive director Paula Ettelbrick of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in New York City said, "With all respect to the organization, they put the World Pride event in a city that so many people in the region can’t travel to.
A lot of people are staying away from the whole thing; it’s problematic for a lot of people."The World Pride name is lent to the event by InterPride, an organization of local pride committees from around the world. Groups that want to host the event apply to the organization for permission, and activists from Jerusalem made the only application after the Rome event, said Russell Murphy, co-president of InterPride.In addition to the gay and lesbian opposition, religious leaders have called for a counterprotest to the event that could draw as many as a half-million people."Even if it’s 100,000 to 200,000, that is still the largest anti-gay demonstration in the world ever," said San Francisco resident Julie Dorf, co-leader of U.S. organizers of World Pride.One orthodox rabbi in New York has blamed the event for the current violence with Hezbollah. Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders in Jerusalem have united to oppose it.The U.S. State Department is warning citizens to "weigh carefully the risk of traveling to Israel or Jerusalem" and to "remain vigilant while traveling anywhere in Jerusalem."
It strongly urges Americans to not travel to the Gaza Strip or the West Bank.
E-mail Wyatt Buchanan at firstname.lastname@example.org
July 26, 2006
Why We Can No Longer Look the Other Way
by Kerry Lobel and Julie Dorf
It might seem rather myopic, even self-centered, to focus on an LGBTQ rights demonstration in Israel during times like these. For now, Jerusalem WorldPride is still on after much debate. Its organizers are even more determined to sound a message of peace and tolerance in the midst of growing chaos in the region, but they can’t do it alone.
As foreigners, it’s hard to imagine that business goes on as usual in Jerusalem. We see unending images of complete destruction in Southern Lebanon, and attacks on Northern Israel. Since the Israeli siege in Gaza earlier this summer, many activists, understandably, have found it difficult to call for a focus on LGBTQ issues in the heart of an occupied country at war – knowing that Palestinians in Gaza do without water and electricity under the 100 degree summer heat and that the Israeli army bombs not only Hamas and Hezbollah leaders, but roads, power lines, and innocent families, displacing more than 600,000 people.However, with international attention now on this part of the globe, WorldPride can and must be seen as part of a wider social justice agenda. Together, we must seize this opportunity to show the interconnectedness of all movements for liberation.In the two weeks prior to the Hezbollah capture of two Israeli soldiers, WorldPride Jerusalem organizers and LGBTQ leaders from around the world mounted a sustained and necessary response to anti-LGBTQ attacks and death threats by right wing religious leaders, particularly from the ultra- Orthodox Jewish community. These are the same leaders who support the settler movement, and who oppose the creation of a Palestinian state.
Calls by extremists for the world’s largest anti-gay demonstration, combined with violence in the region, has led Jerusalem authorities to deny WorldPride organizers the permit needed to march. The connection between anti-LGBTQ and anti-Palestinian attacks has been made for us, and these attacks are escalating on both fronts.With the escalating violence in Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon, it is time for LGBTQ leaders to help WorldPride organizers make real their pledge to use this critical moment and world stage to show solidarity with Palestinians and Israeli peace and justice activists by calling for an end to the occupation, at the same time as calling for the end to religious intolerance. Together, we can work for a just resolution to this decades-long conflict.
The WorldPride Jerusalem 2006 website reads: The reality that surrounds us is one of violent conflict and decades-long occupation. While painful enough, it is becoming even more painful as a result of the separation wall being built up over the last 2 years, which physically divides Jerusalem and leaves many Jerusalemites behind the wall, denying access to most of Jerusalem for Palestinians, including members from our LGBTQ community. Our commitment &is to challenge the hostile environment around us and stand behind our principles. The separation wall hurts everyone in our community. Within the official program of the Jerusalem WorldPride events this August, we want to express our solidarity with our community’s members who will not be able to be part of World Pride.As the WorldPride Jerusalem 2006 organizers wrote, "Holding WorldPride in Jerusalem – the city at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – is a significant opportunity for our diverse community to raise a different voice, a voice for progressive moral values, inclusion, and pluralism." If WorldPride organizers can speak out against the occupation, our LGBTQ leaders from around the world can do no less. As an LGBTQ movement, we have the responsibility to promote our own deeply held values of human equality and civil rights and to speak out against injustice wherever and however we find it. For those of us spending WorldPride week at home, we can take action to bring peace to Israel and Palestine, and now Lebanon. For residents in the Bay Area, Kerry Lobel will be standing with Women in Black to call for an end to the occupation. For more information about an action near you, contact www.bayareawomeninblack.org.For those who are attending Jerusalem WorldPride, please join Julie Dorf, WorldPride U.S. co-chair, who will stand along with WorldPride Organizers in solidarity with Palestinians on Monday, August 7th at a Solidarity Rally at the Jerusalem Separation Wall in San Francisco at 17:00.More information about the this Rally and others can be found at www.worldpride.net.With our every action, we can bring peace. Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel said, "On three things the world stands: on justice, on truth, and on peace." (Zechariah 8:16)
Kerry Lobel is the former Executive Director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and is a consultant to national and international LGBT and feminist organizations. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Julie Dorf is the founder of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and is Chair of the advisory committee to Human Rights Watch’s LGBT Rights Program.
July 27, 2006
Imagine a group of individuals standing on the deck of an imperialist gunboat, under the shadow of cannons aimed and readied to fire at a country—formerly or currently colonized. The group is shouting at the targeted government, “We demand your surrender too, but for progressive reasons!” That’s the position of those based in the imperialist
Their political campaign has ratcheted up. July 19 events in some two dozen cities worldwide called for regime change in
On July 21, the Israeli government canceled the pride march. The stated reason was that the widening war was drawing troops and police who would be needed to guard the march. The unstated reason is that the Israeli coalition government needs to cement unity with its own theocratic base. The Israeli ruling coalition faced a motion of non-confidence from two religious parties within its government on July 10 that demanded the cancellation of the march in
Taking aim at Palestine
The July 19 events were taking aim at Iran—drawing handfuls of individuals in some cities, scores in others—at the same time that the Palestinian and Lebanese people were at ground zero of the bombs and bullets. This widening Israeli assault in the region—a proxy war waged in the economic, strategic and military interests of
The call for anti-Iran events on July 19 was issued by OutRage!, a British gay human rights group, and the Paris-based International Day Against Homophobia. On the day of the July 19 anti-Iran events, Peter Tatchell, an OutRage! leader, issued a political statement from
As the Israelis laid siege to
In the English portion of its web site, Aswat states clearly that as Palestinian LGBTQI’s living directly under military occu pation, and as part of a national min ority in Israel, “[W]e are opposing this attempt to hold the international pride parade in Israel, particularly in Jerusalem, the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As the pride parade will be at a time for the gay and lesbian community to cele brate, Palestinians in Eastern occupied Jeru salem will continue to suffer under intensified checkpoints, increasing racism, house demolishing, confiscating IDs and expanding of Israeli settlements.
“Therefore, ASWAT—a Palestinian gay women group—decided not to take part in the World Pride 2006.” A promotional DVD for the
Aswat emphasized that these are soldiers in an occupying, oppressive army. “This is an insult to our struggle for freedom and tolerance. In
In a recent interview, Aswat co-founder and group coordinator Rauda Morcos explained, “We are focusing on our work within the Palestinian community. We believe we need to have our allies within the community before having them around the world. This is very important because without the support of our community, we cannot exist. The other thing we are focusing on is deliberating the change that is happening within the Palestinian community without comparing that to what is happening in the world. Each community has its own ways, its own scale, its own time, and our time has started, and we’re happy with that.”
When asked how Palestinians viewed her as an “out” lesbian, Morcos concluded, “I think Aswat’s existence proves there are seeds of change. I think we are on the agenda—of the Palestinian social agenda. I think we’re there, and I think it’s very important that the change has to happen. I think it wouldn’t happen without Aswat, and it wouldn’t happen without the support within the community and without having supportive media in our community.” (gay.com)
Lebanese support for Palestine
The group Helem (translated into English as “dreams”) describes itself in the English-language portion of its Arabic website as a non-profit organization in
The organization states, “Helem supports the global movement to boycott Jerusalem World Pride 2006 as part of the international boycott of, and divestment from
Helem concluded that, “the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders should not be placed in competition with the long struggle of the Palestinian people, including Palestinian LGBT people, for self-determination, for the right to return to their homes, and the struggle against apartheid and the occupation of their lands.”
Progressive opposition to the week of “World Pride” events in
The Coalition to Boycott World Pride, which described itself as “individuals and groups working for the liberation of all oppressed peoples,” stressed that “LGBT, intersex and other queer-identified people, should not be placed in competition with the long struggle of the Palestinian people, including Palestinian LGBTIQ people, for self-determination, for the right to return to their homes, and the struggle against apartheid and the occupation of their lands. We urge all people who seek peace and justice to support the travel boycott of World Pride Jerusalem as part of the boycott of Israeli goods, and the call to divest from
Turn the political guns around!
This political struggle regarding Iran and Palestine takes place within the context of a burgeoning battle between imperialism and the countries of the Middle East that are resisting its demands to surrender their sovereignty and right to self-determination. Those who argue that Islam is the problem and that pressure from the imperialist democracies—who have historically arrayed their forces under the banner of Christianity—is the solution are lining up with the oppressor in this war, not the oppressed.
It was colonialism and later imperialism that imposed anti-“sodomy” laws—a term that comes from the Bible, not the Quran—from Africa to the Middle East, from Asia to the Americas, in its effort to restructure social relations in these countries to its economic interests. The French Mandate imposed anti-sodomy laws in
In the imperialist centers, democracy is a form of class rule by the capitalists over the vast laboring class. But even in a democracy, state repression—particularly against nationally oppressed peoples within the imperialist citadels—is cruel. And challenge to capitalist rule can shift the form of state quickly to a more iron-fisted rule, as the rise of fascism in
Imperialism is not looking to bring “progress” to the oppressed.
So now, imperialism—which had relied on some of these same forces to crush communist resistance in the region—has turned to Islam bashing as its justification for economic and military warfare against any government and people who resist its rule, from
The gay liberation struggles in the
5 August 2006
Dublin Gay Film Festival Rejects Israeli Sponsorship
The repercussions of the conflict in the Middle East are well documented, but one unexpected consequence emerged this week when the Irish Film Institute (IFI) cancelled sponsorship from the Israeli Embassy at the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. The Festival screened Walk on Water yesterday, a film about a Mossad agent who befriends the gay son of a former Nazi officer who he is searching for.
IFI Director Mark Mulqueen, informed the Israeli Embassy in Ireland earlier this week said he didn’t want the film to be associated with the current crisis, the statement read, "The decision is taken in light of the current activities of the Israeli government and prompted by the performance of your Ambassador in explaining these acts to the Irish public. “It is important for us to separate the screening of an Israeli feature film from activities of the Israeli government. In allowing the screening to go ahead, this is not an act of artistic censorship, something we would be loath to do.” LookOut!: The 14th Dublin Lesbian & Gay Film Festival runs at the IFI until Monday August 6. For more information visit www.dlgff.ie
August 06, 2006
Gay Gathering in Israel Starts Despite Hezbollah Rocket Attacks
by Jim Kouri
Jerusalem – The gay community in Jerusalem started their 7-day event despite the war-like conditions that exist in the region.
Alan Bolsover of New Israel Fund, which is organized a tour of Israel for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Jerusalem, said that "it is an important time to go to Israel to see what is going on beyond the conflict."Bolchover told PinkNews, a gay community’s news portal, that, "People always say never go to Israel when there is all this fighting, but it’s nice to see people going and seeing the good things about the country."Meanwhile, Jerusalem Open House (JOH), organizer of the event, cancelled the WorldPride parade, because it is not an appropriate time. Giving reason for the cancellation of the parade, the spokesman for Jerusalem Open House, told to PinkNews that, "The parade, which requires extensive security, will not take place due to the situation.
6 August 2006
Open Letter to the LGBTIQ Community and WorldPride Participants
As LGBTIQ Muslims and allies, the Al-Fatiha Foundation is torn, but united in our boycott of WorldPride in Jerusalem. As a religious organization, Al-Fatiha embraces the great symbolism that WorldPride in Jerusalem represents: the bringing together of LGBTIQ people in a city regarded as holy by Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Yet, this WorldPride will not be a bringing together of people; Palestinians and the vast majority of Muslims will continue to be denied access to the city of Jerusalem. Al-Fatiha cannot, in good faith, support participation in WorldPride held in a segregated Jerusalem, under an Israeli apartheid system.
There is no pride in a system of apartheid institutionalized by the Israeli government and enforced by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) against Palestinian civilians. Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza are routinely denied freedom of movement and unrestricted access to Jerusalem. Palestinians must carry identity cards to go anywhere, and if granted, special permits to enter or exit Jerusalem. Every day, Palestinians must endure numerous checkpoints which restrict and often prohibit their travel for work, for education, and for healthcare. The escalating violence targeting civilians in Palestine/Israel precludes freedom of movement for everyone, regardless of sexuality, religion or ethnicity.
There is no pride in collective punishment of millions of people, in wholesale denial of food, water, adequate shelter, right to property, freedom of movement, access to health care and hospitals, access to education, right to earn a living, right to integrity and liberty. These are basic human rights. And, these are human rights that are systematically violated by policies and practices of the Israeli government and the IDF on a daily basis throughout Palestine.
The recent Israeli bombing of a water treatment plant and the sole power plant that supplies electricity to sixty-five percent of Gaza Strip’s 1.4 million inhabitants is just one example of collective punishment experienced by all Palestinians–regardless of religion, political or ideological persuasion, sexual _expression or identity. To date, thousands of Palestinians are still without access to clean water and electricity during the hottest summer months.
In addition, the recent systematic violence by Israel targeting civilian lives in Lebanon and the deliberate annihilation of Lebanese infrastructure of water and electric power plants, airports, seaports, highways, schools and hospitals further widens the scope of collective punishment of millions of innocent civilians.
As an organization, and as a community that spans all continents of the globe, Al-Fatiha stands for justice, peace and self-determination for all people. We believe that all people have the inherent right to liberty, and to freedom of sexual and religious _expression. We equally believe that all people have inviolable human rights, regardless of ethnicity, culture, or nationality.
The Al-Fatiha Foundation stands in solidarity with the many individuals and organizations, such as ASWAT and Helem, which are actively working for nonviolent, peaceful solutions to the violations of human rights in Palestine/Israel, and now Lebanon. We envision a time when all people, regardless of faith, sexuality, gender, ethnicity, culture, or nationality, may celebrate a true WorldPride in a united Jerusalem.
In Struggle and Solidarity,
Al-Fatiha Board of Directors
August 08, 2006
WorldPride Parade Replaced by Protest Against Hatred
by Julie Stahl CNSNews.com Jerusalem Bureau Chief
Jerusalem – After postponing a parade through the streets of Jerusalem, organizers of this week’s international homosexual gathering said they would replace the march with a protest against hatred in a city park."Though the march has been postponed until the end of current hostilities, it is essential for us to express publicly our outrage against the hate campaign targeting our community," the group’s website said. "We will stand together quietly and peacefully in the center of Jerusalem."Overshadowed by the Israeli-Hizballah war in Lebanon, the WorldPride event is nevertheless taking place as planned. The entire event was postponed last year because of turmoil surrounding Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Haggai El-Ad of Jerusalem Open House, the local organizer of the event, said the demonstration is intended to be a "peaceful answer to many months of violent incitement" against WorldPride.
Many conservative Jewish, Christian and Muslim groups and leaders opposed the idea of holding what amounts to a homosexuality convention in Jerusalem — a city sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims — and some warned of violent clashes if the parade took place. This is only the second time that such an international event has been held. The first was in Rome in 2000, and it was timed to coincide with a Christian celebration of the second millennium since Jesus’ birth.Religious and political leaders criticized the idea of holding the event in Jerusalem, calling it a provocation. El-Ad said "thousands" of homosexuals from "dozens" of countries are attending this week’s events, which include a "solidarity rally" with "gay Palestinians" at the security barrier erected by Israel.
A press release from organizers said the rally at the barrier will address the ongoing Palestinian- Israeli conflict. "The reality that surrounds Jerusalem is one of violent conflict and decades-long occupation.. .The purpose of this rally is to proclaim our opposition to the wall, and to draw attention to those who are suffering without blame." But El-Ad said the rally at the barrier is more of a "community event" than a political event because it’s geared toward homosexuals from the Palestinian West Bank cities of Bethlehem and Ramallah who are unable to participate in the Jerusalem events.Jerusalem Open House said in a statement that its greatest challenge is "a tradition of conformist heterosexism that continues to be enforced by almost all social institutions in Israel, including the family, the school, the state, and the religious establishment. "JOH said the challenge is "especially formidable in Jerusalem, a city of traditional values and deeply rooted religious commitments. "
Blogs from activists, reporters and community members attending WorldPride in Jerusalem: http://www.worldpri de.net/index. php?id=1060
August 8, 2006
Crossing Borders–A gay rights festival comes to Jerusalem, a city where identities cross, collide, and co-exist peacefully
by Sarah Wildman
As Israel hunkers down into a fifth week of conflict in Lebanon, a group of activists in Jerusalem remain intransigent — about World Pride, a week of gay rights demonstrations, teach-ins, and lobbying that rotates from city to city around the globe.* The event began on Sunday and ends this Saturday in the Israeli capital. "World Pride in Jerusalem is …a high-drama event," says Hagai El-Ad, the director of the Jerusalem Open House, the group responsible for bringing World Pride to the city. "It will be the largest, most significant, and most diverse LGBT cultural festival of its kind ever to be held in this part of the world."
World Pride Jerusalem has been a point of contention from its conception, long before the guns of July opened fire. Ultra-Orthodox Jews threatened violence. (At least one rabbi promised bloodshed). The mayor of Jerusalem, an Orthodox Jew, tried to keep police permits from marchers and assemblers in the city. (The one significant concession to the broader security situation was the cancellation of the parade that usually headlines the festival.)
This is, in fact, World Pride Jerusalem’s second chance. Originally slated to be held last summer, it was cancelled due to the security situation surrounding the Gaza disengagement, but not before it helped usher in a season of explicit anti-gay sentiment in Israel. A violent attack accompanied Jerusalem’s own gay pride parade that summer, a far smaller affair that draws only a fraction of the many thousands expected for World Pride. Midway through the parade, a marcher was set upon by a knife-wielding, ultra-Orthodox Jewish man. More disconcerting to organizers last year was an ecumenical assemblage of Christians, Jews, and Muslims that issued a joint statement denouncing World Pride (prior to its cancellation). "I am saddened," sighs El-Ad, thinking back to that statement. "A group of dominant religious figures finally [came] together to say something. This is not a common sight in this city, right? They could have come together and said, ‘We want a united voice for peace,’ or ‘Fight poverty,’ or ‘Fight disease.’ None of that has ever happened. Instead, the one thing that has happened is a united voice for hatred and bigotry…They were terrified that we might succeed in reclaiming a part of our heritage — that it is possible to have faith and be gay at the same time, that we might succeed in showing that people can get along in Jerusalem."
Israel has always been a country of contradictions — a place where the world’s three major monotheistic religions collide and crash and, occasionally, coexist peacefully, a place where pillars of modernity (sleek malls, night clubs) stand alongside neighborhoods where honoring the Sabbath day is the rule of law. It should be no surprise, then, that the Israeli gay community is itself a mishmash of intrigue and contradictions, where some gay men and lesbians live as though they are in Miami or Barcelona or New York while others face a pitched political battlefield every day.
Israel has full freedom of equality in the military — gay men and lesbians serve openly — and employment non-discrimination has been on the books for years. Domestic partnership laws put inheritance and property rights for gay and lesbian couples on par with their straight counterparts. But the dominance of religion means that marriage and parental rights remain in flux. (There is no such thing as civil marriage.) "Hate crimes are almost nonexistent in Israel," says Uzi Evan, who married his partner in Toronto last year, "but we still don’t feel sure that if the fundamentalist portion of society gets control we are safe." Evan, who was the first openly gay member of the Israeli Parliament, is now suing the state for recognition of his union.
The Jerusalem Open House exists in constant contention with the fundamentalist elements of Israeli society. In June 2005 the organization won a major city court victory against efforts to ban the city’s gay pride march. Jerusalem’s district attorney refused to prosecute the case, saying it was "indefensible," according to the Jerusalem Post, and a violation of free speech. The city’s highest court agreed.
Open House’s offices are perched in the heart of Jerusalem, on a pedestrian mall called Ben Yehuda Street. For years, Ben Yehuda was known as a place to pick up tourist trinkets and grab a slice of pizza or a beer. It then became equally well known as the site of numerous gruesome bombings during the Second Intifada. "Those were difficult months," says El-Ad, who runs the organization with Haneen Maikey, the Palestinian-Israeli outreach director. "But they were also months of tremendous courage and accomplishment."
The group remained open, running youth outreach programs among other projects. In the last two years, gay night life has crept back to Jerusalem. There is a (single) gay bar — Shushan — run by an out-gay city council member. At Sushan a bizarre cross section of the city’s gay life meets — Jewish, Arab, religious, and secular. Maikey runs a once-a-month party for Palestinians at Shushan. Palestinians come from everywhere to get to it — Israeli Palestinians who are citizens of the state and residents of the West Bank alike. It is the only place where one can be "out" and Palestinian in the region.
" Jerusalem is the cross point for so many identities," says El-Ad, "which on the one hand makes it a challenge and on the other hand makes these things possible. The same thing goes regarding religious people and secular people: the crossing between faith and homosexuality, and the crossing between national identity and gay and lesbian identity." Maikey picks up the thread, pointing to her Tuesday night parties. "Palestinian gays from Ramallah [in the West Bank], they have to pass through three borders. First, the family — they have to convince them why they have to spend away from Ramallah and out of the house. Then the check points. And then the cultural gap within Israeli society." Says El-Ad, "It’s just a party, people are having fun, what’s the big deal, right? But it’s such a big deal. It’s the beginning of the creation of a community. It’s the opportunity for people to see they are not alone."
That notion underlies El-Ad’s thoughts about the anxieties and admonitions surrounding World Pride. El-Ad sees the festival as a continuation of that swirl and meshing of identities in Jerusalem that he and his organization celebrate — a demonstration of strength, pluralism, and peace. A timely message, perhaps, as a new war unfolds.
* The article originally stated incorrectly that World Pride is an annual festival. It was last held in 2000.
Sarah Wildman is a Prospect senior correspondent.
August 10, 2006
Gay activists hold Jerusalem protest vigil-intrusion by anarchists disrupts event
by Etgar Lefkovits
A group of 200 gays held a silent protest vigil in Jerusalem’s Liberty Bell Park on Thursday evening, after their long-planned international parade was canceled due to the war in Lebanon.The heavily guarded demonstration, which was ignored by the city’s haredi community, was allowed to take place after organizers adhered to the conditions police had set for it, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said.The event was marred when a group of anarchists joined the gathering and began waving placards against the war in Lebanon and shouting slogans against the IDF. Police forcibly prevented them from approaching the sidewalk on the edge of the park and detained a protester who unfurled a PLO flag.
The low-key event, which was one-fifth the size organizers had originsally planned, came near the culmination of six-day World Pride Event in Jerusalem, which was overshadowed by the war and the police decision to bar a planned parade through the streets. A huge red banner at the protest read"Jerusalem is for all," while rainbow-colored placards included such slogans as "The Path to God is not always straight" and "Senseless hatred." "We believe that the holiness of Jerusalem is increased by this city being the center of tolerance and coexistence," said Rabbi Ayelet Cohen, 32, who lead a delegation from New York City’s Congregation Beth Simhat Torah, the world’s largest gay and lesbian synagogue. She added that organizers understood that the tone had to be "appropriate" during wartime when "the voices of tolerance and hope are all the more essential."
Some motorists shouted at the protesters to go to Lebanon or relocate to the Gaza Strip."At a time when Jewish blood is being spilt in Lebanon, all that these self-indulgent narcissistic, selfish, perverted people can think about is engaging in sodomy," said New York Rabbi Yehuda Levin, of the Orthodox Rabbinical Alliance of America and the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the US and Canada, who has been spearheading an international campaign against the parade. Levin, who was prevented by police from entering the park lest there be a violent confrontation, slammed police for "wimping out like French poodles" in not stopping the gathering.Ben-Ruby noted that the event was not dispersed since protesters did not move out into the streets, block traffic or use bullhorns. A parade was nixed last month, when police said they were unable to allocate sufficient forces needed to secure such a major event due to the war. The international gay festival, which was originally scheduled to take place last year and had already been postponed until August due to last summer’s Gaza pullout, has been widely criticized by Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders in Jerusalem and around the world as a deliberate affront and provocation to millions of believers.
The idea of holding an international gay parade in Jerusalem was seen by many residents as out of touch with both the spiritual character of the city and the sensitivities of its observant residents. A public opinion poll released last year found that three-quarters of Jerusalem residents were opposed to holding the international gay event.
17 August 2006
Gay Israeli soldiers ‘defeated’ by Hezbollah?
A senior terror leader in Palestine has hailed Israel’s military campaign a ‘failure’ and an indication that the Jewish state is weak. Abu Oudai, chief rocket coordinator for the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in the West Bank told WorldNetDaily that Hezbollah’s ‘tremendous victory’ had inspired his group and other terror outfits to focus their ‘resistance’ on rocket attacks. Not content with claiming that Hezbollah ‘won’ the war, Oudai chose to question the sexuality of the Israeli military."If we do [what Hezbollah accomplished], this Israeli army full of gay soldiers and full of corruption and with old-fashioned war methods can be defeated also in Palestine." Unlike the US military, Israel has embraced gay soldiers, some would say through combative necessity, rather than a wish to expand their liberal credentials. Israel has mandatory military service for both men and women. Typically, men serve for 36 months, women serve for 24 months. In 1983, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) adopted regulations which officially allowed homosexuals to serve in the military. Oudai may not be impressed with the prospect of gay personnel, but security and mental health officials for the IDF have found no evidence the long-standing inclusion of homosexuals in the IDF has harmed operational effectiveness, combat readiness, unit cohesion, or morale in the Israeli military.
No doubt, Oudai believes that homosexuals are non-existent on the West Bank; hardly surprising considering most gay Palestinians would rather live under house arrest in Israel than at home. Considering there are five forms of death prescribed by Islam for homosexuality, it’s unlikely that Oudai would meet an out gay terrorist amongst his ranks.
August 18, 2006
War depresses turnout for World Pride…Just 400 brave Israeli-Hezbollah conflict to attend Jerusalem event
by Joshua Lynsen
World Pride organizers are blaming Middle East violence for the low turnout at this month’s event in Jerusalem.
An estimated 400 people attended World Pride, which began Aug. 6 and concluded Aug. 12. The event came during a month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah, and while other clashes raged in the Gaza Strip.Organizers had hoped to see 10,000 people at World Pride.“Given all things, it was an extraordinary event,” said Sharon Kleinbaum, World Pride’s North American co-chair. “There were great moments of pride.” Kleinbaum, head rabbi of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in New York, said those who came to World Pride despite the conflict were part of a “once in a lifetime” gathering. “For those of us who were there, it was a very powerful event,” she said. “It was a really important, redemptive event.”World Pride in Jerusalem featured a religious conference attended by 300 people, and a youth day that drew 100 visitors. The weeklong gathering, planned since 2003, also offered a film festival and other shows. A march scheduled for Aug. 10 was cancelled due to security concerns. Members of fundamentalist Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups had threatened to physically block the march, saying it would be an affront to members of all three faiths. World Pride’s host organization, Jerusalem Open House, is expected to schedule an independent march later this year.Kleinbaum said the violence north of World Pride “affected everything on some level.”She said most people who planned to attend the event cancelled, hotels were inundated with refugees, and local volunteers were summoned for military service. Kleinbaum said she and other World Pride attendees felt safe, but were constantly reminded of the nearby war. “People were very sobered, and aware of it at all times,” she said. “But at the same time, we managed to have fun and laugh in the face of this, and assert our right to our lives. And that was very meaningful for everyone.”Kleinbaum said World Pride attendees forged ahead with scheduled events “with great dignity despite the tremendous pressures.”
Youth day activities Aug. 7 included a broad discussion of the challenges faced by gay youth. Speakers noted their peers fear coming out to family or friends because they believe nobody will support them.Discussions of social and religious equality were held Aug. 8 and 9. The World Pride Multi-faith Convocation explored the ways religious texts “seek equality and call for the respect of human rights.” Rallies followed on Aug. 9 and 10. The first rally, at the Jerusalem Separation Wall on Aug. 9, was a symbolic show of unity. The second rally, at Liberty Bell Park on Aug. 10, protested homophobia and demanded equality. Kleinbaum said the Aug. 10 rally was disrupted by an anti-war protest. She noted there was a brief scuffle with police, but the rally’s message was nonetheless conveyed.“I think it’s essential at times of conflict,” she said, “to put forward a vision of tolerance and pluralism.”
World Pride’s last major event, a religious service led by Kleinbaum, brought attendees together for a peaceful farewell.
‘Prayers were powerful’ Kleinbaum noted that the war ended soon after World Pride’s final prayer gathering. “I like to think our presence helped to bring about the cease fire,” she said. “I like to say that our prayers were powerful.”World Pride was last held in Rome in 2000, when the Vatican and other Christian denominations celebrated the 2,000th anniversary of Christianity. Organizers said then the gathering was intended to show that gays have flourished despite years of persecution based on religious beliefs. Organizers said similar motivations were behind the selection of Jerusalem as host city.“The greatest traditions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism affirm the dignity of all human beings and our creation in the divine image,” local organizers said in a statement. “There is no better place in the world than Jerusalem to make that statement, and perhaps no city that needs to hear it more.” World Pride attendees said that message got through. Georgetown law professor Chai Feldblum, 47, a longtime gay rights activist, commended organizers for encouraging peace in a volatile region.
“I believe that having queer Israeli and queer Palestinians walking together opens up possibilities for talking to each other that we desperately need,” Feldblum said.
August 18, 2006
Iranian fatwa seen as victory for trans people but trans Muslims often face ostracism, violence
by Elizabeth A. Perry
Editors note: This is the second installment in a series devoted to examining the views of various religions on transgender issues.This week: the Islamic perspective. The execution of two Iranian teens last year reportedly hanged for being gay served as a grim reminder of the Islamist regime’s policy that condones torture, even the death penalty, for gays. It might seem logical to assume that such harsh policies would also apply to transgender people, but, surprisingly, that is not necessarily the case.Faisal Alam founder of Al-Fatiha, a gay Muslim organization located in the United States, said many Quran scholars believe that transgender individuals are biologically imperfect. Alam, who is gay, said that in the early 1990s a fatwa, or religious decree, was issued to allow a university student to undergo an operation to transition from male to female.The scholar argued that this was allowed in Islam because the operation would "change the outside body to become what was already inside," he said.Although sexual relations between members of the same sex are forbidden by almost all Islamic scholars and leaders, rules regarding transgender individuals are more vague. Research on the subject of Islamic attitudes toward trans people is scant, according to the Safra Project, a resource group for Muslim lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. But some Muslim scholars have written about a four-way division of gender in Islam into male, female, khunsa (intersex) and Mukhannis (transgendered or pre-op males). The khunsa and Mukhannis identities are not mentioned in the Quran, the Islamic holy book."In most Muslim laws and societies, transgender people whose bodies have male and female characteristics [hermaphrodites or intersex people] are allowed or even encouraged to undergo surgery to make their bodies in line with the sex and gender division into male or female," according to an article from the Safra Project. However, for transgender people whose sex is female but whose gender identity is male (and vise versa) and for those who do not identify as either male or female or both, this is usually more complicated.
Khomeini issues trans fatwaOne of the most dramatic personal testimonies to come from Iran’s transgender population is that of Maryam Molkara, who was living under Islamic law in Iran during the reign of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who toppled the shah in the 1979 Islamic revolution there. In an interview with the BBC, she talked about her letters to the ayatollah in which she said she had always felt she was a woman."I wrote that my mother had told me that even at the age of 2, she had found me in front of the mirror putting chalk on my face the same way a woman puts on her makeup," she said. He wrote back, saying that I should follow the Islamic obligations of being a woman.Molkara’s first attempt to see Khomeini to request a fatwa for a sex-change operation was in 1978. The Islamic revolution tightened religious restrictions against transgender individuals, and others who had traveled a similar path were imprisoned and killed, according to the BBC. Molkara was fired from her job, sent to a mental hospital and injected with male hormones.Undaunted, she set out again after she was released. She wore a man’s suit and sported a beard. She got as far as Khomeini’s compound in northern Tehran before she was attacked by guards, who beat her until the ayatollah’s brother, Hassan Pasandide, intervened, the BBC reported."I was screaming, ‘I’m a woman, I’m a woman’", she said. The guards thought the band Molkara was wearing around her chest might contain explosives and when she removed it, a pair of female breasts was exposed. She left the compound with her fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini, a decree for all who sought gender reassignment surgery.Sex change operations are legal in Iran for anyone who can afford the cost and meet the psychological criteria, according to a report in the Guardian newspaper. Despite Molkara’s eventual success, Alam said transgender individuals still face discrimination in Muslim societies.
"It is pretty well known that transgender people in Muslim societies still face many barriers and are often ostracized from their families and communities," he said. "They have very little access to employment, thus many become sex workers. There is virtually no access to health care and most Muslim societies are very poor."Alam said he sees more tolerance for differences in general in the United States, where Muslims must adapt to new cultures and customs.
Muslim mother of 3 undergoes sex changeSister Jannah is a transgender Muslim and practitioner of Wicca living in Arlington, Va. She said she was raised Catholic and converted to Islam when she was 25. Now in her mid-40s, Jannah, who asked that her full name not be used because she fears her children would be ostracized, said she came to the realization that she was a woman in a man’s body two years ago."I knew I had it in me for years," she said. "It got stronger to where I couldn’t deny it any longer. It threw my entire existence into an upheaval."She is still married to her wife and has three children, who do not support her decision to transition. She said she no longer attends her local mosque and has lost contact with the Muslim community because she does not want to embarrass her family, and because the mosque she attended has gender-based rules. Men sit in one area and women in another, which leaves Jannah in a quandary if she ever decides to return."If I went back, I could not be in the men’s space anymore," she said. "It was giving me anxiety attacks for years. I have to be with the sisters. That fear of being rejected kept me away. There is too much shaming and gossiping in the Muslim community if anyone is unconventional in their behavior."Jannah found that conforming to Islam was difficult when she came out as transgender, so she went in search of a spirituality that would welcome her as a queer, transgender woman. She said the pagans offered her a warm welcome and encouraged her to be herself. "They don’t mind if I still identify as a woman and still pray the Salah, the regular Islamic daily prayer ritual," she said. "I’ve been able to do two religions at once." She credits Al-Fatiha with helping her remain, at least partially, in the Muslim faith and called the organization a "great help to people around the world." She also said that when she prays as a woman she feels as though she is praying meaningfully and deeply, despite having been a Muslim for 20 years.
"My spiritual life is the core to my existence," she said. "It’s hard to exist as a transgendered person when I don’t get support. Sometimes it’s harder than I can bear. Something inside me won’t quit. Even when it hurts, Allah sustains me. That is the essence of faith. I experience praying to Allah as praying to the Great Mother. There is no difference."
August 29, 2006
Jerusalem police: Forget about gay parade
by Efrat Weiss
Open House plans to hold World Pride parade on Septembers 21, but Jerusalem police announce they will not allow parade due to busy holiday season.Only one day after the Open House for Pride and Tolerance announced that the World Pride parade would be held in Jerusalem on September 21, the Jerusalem police announced on Tuesday afternoon that they would not allow the parade to be held next month due to the busy holiday season.Police officials said that if other dates are provided, they would reexamine the decision.
In the summer, the Open House members asked to hold the gay parade in Jerusalem, but the organizers eventually cancelled the march due to the war in southern Lebanon.On Monday, they announced that they would hold the parade in Jerusalem on September 21 (two days before the Jewish New Year). Police officials said that they heard about the date on the media.Following the announcement on the plan to hold the parade, the police held a meeting to evaluate the situation, at the end of which it was decided not to allow the parade to be held next month.The Jerusalem police said in response: "If we are presented with other dates, we will reexamine them and approve them."Open House: We may turn to courtThe holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Succot will be marked at the end of September and the beginning of October.
The Jerusalem District Police is preparing to secure the mass events planned to be held in the capital during that period.Open House Director Hagai Elad told Ynet in response: "The police are issuing statements to the press instead of responding in a matter-of-fact manner. We will struggle to hold the parade and will hold it as planned on September 21.""It is important that the Jerusalem Municipality and the police do not attempt to stand in the way of the freedom of speech. They should regain their composure and enter a matter-of-fact dialogue with the Open House regarding the parade which will be held on September 21. If needed, we will not hesitate to petition the court. The Open House has yet to receive any official response from the police on the request submitted regarding the parade," he said.Open House officials explained that holding the parade this year, one day before Rosh Hashana, constitutes "a key role in the ongoing struggle for promoting the freedom of speech, the rights of the community in Jerusalem and promoting democratic and pluralistic values in the city and outside of it."
"Holding the parade in Jerusalem this year bears particularly great significance in light of the waves of unprecedented incitement which the community in Jerusalem suffered during the global pride events and before them," the Open House said.
September 18, 2006
High Court: Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade to take place Nov. 10
The High Court of Justice ruled on Monday that the controversial Gay Pride Parade will take place in Jerusalem on Nov. 10.
The decision came after the Jerusalem Open House, the organizers of the parade, submitted a petition against the Jerusalem Police, who had refused to allow the parade to take place for security reasons.
Following pressure by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, police agreed to guard the parade. The Jerusalem Municipality was also obligated to aid the event.
Open House Chairperson Noa Sattath responded by saying that "the achievement is the achievement of all those who hold a democratic and pluralistic Israel dear to their hearts."
September 14, 2006
Gay Life in Israel: Aguda, Israel Gay Youth, Hoshen and Jerusalem Open House–"Part of it all"
Elad Fishfeder is your typical Israeli. He’s swarthy, thick-haired, lithe, with that hospitable persistence all too common in the Middle East. "Take a paper, take one," he says. "Here, one more even," insists the 30-year-old writer. He’s typical, all right, save for an important difference: Fishfeder is religious, and he’s also gay. Wearing a kipah and all that it entails — keeping kosher, keeping Shabbat, observing many other commandments — and identifying as openly gay is bold. It’s unusual. And in the staunchly secular city of Tel Aviv, where this man resides, it’s practically unheard of. But Fishfeder’s not trying to make a statement, he’s simply living his life.
Fishfeder, the editor of the Hebrew monthly The Pink Times — the only gay magazine in Israel, printing between 30,000 and 40,000 copies each edition — came out of the proverbial closet about seven years ago. "You know when you’re gay; you know when you’re a teenager, though I didn’t do anything with it," he explains in slightly accented English.
When he finally did, he says friends and family stood by him, especially his older brother, who’s also gay and living in the United States. Though Fishfeder comes from a "very supportive and protective community," he’s made some real changes in his life; he prays at a shul with older people ("There is no gay and lesbian Orthodox synagogue in Israel," he notes), he lives alone, he dates quietly, but he never takes off his kipah srugah, the knitted kipah that is his tradition.
" I get looks and stares; it was very difficult," he says. "Most young gay guys who are Orthodox must make a decision: to live a conventional life — living a lie — or to leave the faith. It tears them apart. We’re suffering, especially youngsters; we’re living in great pain. People commit suicide, they get depressed — they’re sad and lonely. " The official party line is that the ultra-Orthodox and modern Orthodox, they don’t have homosexuals in the community. But they must acknowledge it exists," he continues. "They have to understand we must deal with the issue and not sweep it under the rug.
" This is who I am."
‘Vehicle to Change Attitudes’
And he’s not alone. Advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals in Israel claim that between 8 percent and 12 percent of the population falls into this category. "No one really knows; it’s a sensitive issue," says Mike Hamel, chairperson of Aguda ("The National Association of GLBT in Israel").
Aguda is the oldest, largest and only nationwide gay organization in Israel, founded in 1975 and headquartered in Tel Aviv, with branches now all over the country. It was formed as a "vehicle to change attitudes in Israeli society," explains Hamel, adding that back then, board members had to use code names for their own protection. Why? He’s quick to point out that at one time — not too long ago, really — homosexual sex was a criminal offense on the law books, a holdover from the British Mandate period, though he admits it was not applied. It was eliminated in 1988. Progress moved quickly from there.
According to an online history of Israeli court cases pertaining to gay and lesbians compiled by BICOM: Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre, in 1992, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1988 was revised to prohibit discrimination in employment relations on the basis of sexual orientation and marital status. A year later, under the aegis of Labor Party Knesset member Yael Dayan, the Knesset established a subcommittee on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Rights.
Also in 1993, the Israel Defense Force rescinded its regulations discriminating against sexual minorities. In 1994 the Supreme Court recognized same-sex partner benefits in the private sector, after a case pressed on by an El Al airline employee; three years later, it extended those benefits to the public sector following a law suit involving an IDF widower.
Eyal Shavit, a volunteer with Israel Gay Youth, and Yoav Arad, who represents the gay-youth support network Hoshen (the Hebrew acronym for "education and change") And GLBT advocates also look to 1997 — and a boon in parental rights — when a case first brought adoption to the forefront; it took until Jan. 10, 2005, but the Supreme Court eventually ruled that a lesbian couple could legally adopt each other’s children.
Yet when Hamel, 50, a computer-systems professional by trade and a father of three who came out six years ago, after his wife died — discusses attitudinal changes, he’s not talking about America’s hot-button issue; he’s not even approaching gay marriage. "That’s not part of the Israeli agenda because it’s not going to happen, not in the foreseeable future," he says, not as long as weddings fall under the rubric of religious law.
Like most GLBT communities, the battle is for respect and acceptance. Hamel notes that in many ways, Israel is more progressive than the United States. " There is no gay-bashing," he says, referring to Jews only, not Palestinian or other Arab populations. "You can hold hands in the street, you can kiss in the street, but things are far from perfect."
Military life — a requirement in Israeli society — can be onerous; the corporate world hasn’t embraced integration so well; and much of the religious community remains in denial that homosexuality is an issue at all. And perhaps one of the roughest crowds — the roughest for most people — is among the echelons of the young. " Some 25 percent of kids report physical resentment — pushing, shoving," says Hamel. And that’s just for those gay and lesbian youngsters who actually discuss and relay such behavior.
That’s why, among many things, including overseeing the editorial content of The Pink Times, Aguda cultivates a youth contingent, called Hoshen, to assist those grappling with their sexuality.
Hoshen (the Hebrew acronym for "education and change") is the informational and educational center of the GLBT community, a nonprofit volunteer organization whose purpose is to fight stereotypes regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. It does this by addressing high school students and teachers, university students and faculty, guidance counselors, professionals, soldiers, social workers, medical staff, police and border guards. It is also officially recognized by the Educational Psychological Authority of the Ministry of Education.
The change in attitudes, "it’s been the biggest social revolution in the last 10 years in Israel," attests Eyal Shavit, who represents another volunteer organization, Israel Gay Youth, better known as IGY. "It’s not that hard to be gay in Tel Aviv; it’s the gay capital of Israel, and recognized as such in European countries. But most kids don’t tell their parents they’re going to IGY. Most kids don’t tell their parents they’re gay. " We walk a thin line," says Shavit. "We don’t ‘out’ anyone. We want to offer places safe to youngsters who are confused.
" Our groups," he continues, "are basically social groups, not therapy. It gives youngsters the ability to meet others, to feel safe, ask questions — a place where they can be themselves, without lying, without wearing any masks. The youngsters need an address to come to."
Both groups, Hoshen and IGY, are relatively young, less than five years in the making. Shavit, 27, and Yoav Arad, 34, who represents Hoshen, both remark that outside of school and family, the military remains one of their biggest concerns, particularly when it comes to men.
Israel is a very macho society, they acknowledge, and serving in the army is often seen as something to fear.
Still, the IDF (Israel Defense Force) has come a long way, believes Shavit: "It’s better than it was two years ago, and three years ago, and five years ago." But much work remains to be done to eliminate some of the stigma, they say. Consider this: There is no word in Hebrew for "gay." Israelis use "homosexual," with a silent "h," and they shorten it simply to "homo." The softer term for lesbian is "lesbit."
Nevertheless, efforts inches forward. The youth-group leaders have several goals, including talking with younger kids (17-year-olds will often ask, "Where were you four years ago?") and working with children of same-sex couples, who have added levels of frustration and hardship regarding school and society.
And while he stresses that IGY representatives don’t influence individuals’ decisions, Shavit does aim "to improve ways of coming out. We don’t want kids wandering the Internet for answers. We want to be the most common address for youngsters to find themselves."
Arad then defers to the grass-roots Aguda in Tel Aviv, with hundreds of active volunteers, and to an entity called Bayit Pituach ("Open House") in Jerusalem — "the only really professional agency working with gays," with an actual paid staff. " The rest of us," he quips, "are rookies."
Sharon Stern, a 35-year-old Jerusalemite, lesbian, self-avowed feminist and prominent volunteer with Open House, would good-naturedly disagree with that. She realizes that only a combination of efforts in different arenas will help break certain barriers between homosexuals and heterosexuals throughout Israel.
Open House was begun in 1997; it started out as a hotline at a time when gay and lesbian issues were barely on the map in Jerusalem. Also at that time, Sterns says just a handful of places to congregate existed — perhaps three or four cafes and bars. "But you couldn’t feel comfortable going there. People would yell at you, curse at you. We needed something else."
So they found an upper-floor walk-up space on none other than Ben-Yehuda Street, the city’s main pedestrian thoroughfare. At first, the group debated over whether or not to identify the facility; there was concern about provoking public ire. In the end, a rainbow flag was hung from a window, a sign put up and a pride mezuzah attached — sent, in fact, by the Philadelphia Jewish community. After a few months, Stern reveals, someone broke the mezuzah; later, the flag was burned.
‘Victims of Our Own Success’
But little by little, people started to stop by — to weave their way up the stairs and through the door, and "we found out that we are one big diverse community." Programming includes providing various services to build the GLBT community, advocating for social change on issues of concern, and taking action to promote tolerance and pluralism in Jerusalem.
Such measures inevitably led to the idea of a pride parade, something Tel Aviv has held since 1998. "We thought it would be somewhat of a breakthrough for all Jerusalem," states Stern.
And so, for the past few years, a march, parade, rally — call it what you will — has taken place in a city that’s far from accepting of this particular lifestyle. In fact, an Orthodox man stabbed three people at last year’s parade; similar violence was expected this year. Alarm reached a zenith this spring, well in advance of the planned August parade, which was converging with an even larger GLBT event, World Pride. Some 10,000 people were expected to march in Jerusalem as part of the international event, which began in Rome in 2000, and which was postponed from last summer due to Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.
Stern says that Rome and Jerusalem were chosen specifically because of their religious nature, because "gay pride is celebrated in every major city in the world, so why not Jerusalem? There’s so much intolerance here: between Jews and Arabs, Jews and Jews, gays and straight." Thus, it was fitting that World Pride’s slogan became "Love Without Borders."
But as fate would have it, war broke out with the Lebanese-based Hezbollah on July 12, and by Aug. 6 — the week of scheduled pride events — hundreds of bombs were dropping daily on northern Israel. Would-be participants stayed away in droves, and security was cited as the reason to put the march on hold. Other programs, including a film festival, a health conference, a youth day and Friday-night services, went on as planned in closed venues, and a fairly low-key rally in Jerusalem’s Liberty Bell Park brought a few hundred people out on Aug. 10. To date, Open House is petitioning the Supreme Court to conduct its march in the next few weeks.
Among those who did show up for World Pride was a group from the Philadelphia area, as part of a first-ever gay-pride mission to Israel, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. It started out as a group of 28 men and women — singles and couples — and wound up one of 14. There was a significant contingent of 30 from New York, as well as solid representation from Canada. Pierre Blain, project officer for the National and now International Day Against Homophobia, established in 2002, was there. The 57-year-old from Montreal bucked the trend and traveled to Israel during wartime because "we have to show the world that we are proud to be gay and lesbian. And because of the situation, it was more important to be here."
The Day Against Homophobia takes place in 40 countries, many of them European, yet is not held in the United States ("not yet," says Blain). It occurs in Israel. And that represents considerable progress. It represents a far cry from the secrecy and shame that marked this group of people a decade ago.
Indeed, as Hamel states, "we’re victims of our own success, in a way. GLBT is not such a big deal in society today; it’s not considered a human-rights issue in Israel. " But it is. Things are better, but they’re far from being resolved. There’s no outright homophobia, but it’s underlying: no empowerment, no funding, no corporate money — none of it goes to the GLBT community," he laments, adding that the group is attempting to appeal to resources outside of the Jewish state. " For many years, Aguda focused on what was happening in Israel. That was okay 15 years ago, but now, it’s not enough. Everything back then was a tremendous success. " Sometimes, we live in our own bubble," he admits, with a shrug and a little wisp of a smile, glasses hanging down low on his nose. "But we’re a part of society — a part of all of it. We’re reservists; we’re going to war. We’re a part."
September 1, 2006
by Jacob Anderson-Minshall
In 2003, Reuben Zellman became the first out transgender person accepted into a Jewish rabbinical school, an experience he describes as both a tremendous privilege and a challenge. A California native with a degree in linguistics from University of California, Berkeley, Zellman is completing his Rabbinical internship at New York’s Congregation Beth Simchat Torah. For that congregation and for the LGBT Jewish organization Mosaic, Zellman compiling Jewish texts that deal with gender issues, and suggests how trans Jews can be welcomed into the faith (cbst.org/trans.shtml). In that arena, Zellman insists the best advice isn’t his.“More than two thousand years ago, [Rabbi Hillel] taught that we must treat other people the way we wish to be treated ourselves.” Zellman states.
“[But] people will ask a trans person questions about their genitals that they would be horrified if someone asked of them.” Zellman identifies as transgender and queer, and says, “I use the pronoun ‘he,’ but I don’t identify as a man. Identity isn’ t simple, and there’s no reason that it ought to be. Humanity is much more wonderfully complicated and diverse than we have ever acknowledged.” Zellman argues that Jewish institutions should welcome trans Jews because “our progress as a people is impoverished if we don’t. When trans and gender-queer people aren’t welcomed and embraced, we lose some of our most committed, passionate and thoughtful Jews.” One of those passionate and thoughtful Jews is Noach Dzmura, a scholar of gender, sexuality and rabbinics. The gay transgender man is a member of a Reform congregation that accepts him as a man, but Dzmura contends that there are ways he is subtly exclued-what he calls covert inauthentications.
“In his Master’s thesis, ‘Textual Relations in the Restroom : Countering Inauthenticity in Jewish Transgender Lives,’ ” Dzmura writes : “Rather than overt condemnation, one’s identity may be challenged by covert inauthentication…[or] one’s gender or sexual preference may be misattributed, downplayed, or ignored.” Dzmura insists that the way to combat those exclusionary practices is for trans Jews to share details of their personal histories. Dzmura writes : “Through storytelling, we can narrate the part of our lives that our bodies no longer tell. If I gloss over my girlhood I am depriving myself of those precious-even if preciously difficult-experiences. If I want real intimacy with people, I need to tell the truth of my life.” Dzmura argues that compelling arguments for embracing gender variant Jews lie in the most indisputable place : the Talmud and Jewish scripture.“When G-d creates Eve from Adam’s side, He’s essentially performing a sex-change operation.”
Dzmura contends. “When a man leaves his family and cleaves to his wife, a midrash [a rabbinical interpretation] tells us he is thus returned to his original dual-sexed state.” The religious scholar says when Rabbis codified early oral traditions of law-which later became part of the Talmud-they described a multigendered Jewish community that included androgynous persons, castrated eunuchs, masculine women, and people who had a flap of skin covering their genitals. Each group, Dzmura says, was guaranteed basic human rights, and each had a role in the ritual life of the Temple and in family life.
These texts and Judaism’s ability to change over time are what give the scholar hope that the faith can be an inviting spiritual home for trans people.“Judaism is not one single condemnatory voice-it’s a multiplicity of voices and opinions. Judaism is like a 2000 year-long Internet chat room with an ongoing conversation, and people coming in and going out all the time.” To reach Judaism’s potentiality, Dzmura believes trans and non-trans Jews need to continue that conversation and carry on the Jewish tradition of re-evaluating scripture and law.
“We need to study the texts of our tradition and to come up with new ways to interpret passages that are oppressive. We need to experience what happens to Jewish ritual when it can no longer be performed by people who are solely traditionally gendered. When we do, how does this change the shape of Judaism ?”
Trans writer Jacob Anderson-Minshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
September 14, 2006
Gay Israeli-Palestinian film love story alienates many
by Janet Guttsman
Toronto – The deck seems stacked against Israeli filmmakers Eytan Fox and Gal Uchovsky, whose movie "The Bubble" held its international premiere at the Toronto Film Festival this week.The movie’s theme of a gay love affair between an Israeli and a Palestinian alienates conservative audiences in Israel and abroad, and European left-wingers angry at Israeli attacks on Lebanon don’t want to see Israeli films at all. And the movie, which has a strong anti-war message, opened in Israel just weeks before the latest Israel-Hizbollah war, and when war started, the cinemas mostly closed.
" It’s not an easy movie to make. It’s not as though people in Israel say ‘This is beautiful, wow we love it’," said Uchovsky, one of the writers and producers of the film, which his partner Fox directed. "And then you go to the world and the world hates you as well. It’s hard." Set in the self-centered "bubble" of Tel Aviv — a city reportedly out of touch with the rest of the country — the film is one of just two Israeli movies at the Toronto festival.
It is far more political — and far more gay — than Fox’s previous movie "Walk on Water," a bittersweet 2004 comedy of complex ties between Israelis, Germans and Palestinians that became Israel’s biggest grossing movie.
The new film looks at what Fox describes as the "tormented region" of the Middle East through the eyes of Noam, from Tel Aviv, and Ashraf, from the Palestinian West Bank, in a love affair that crashes up against politics at almost every turn. But Fox told Reuters that the issues, including gay love, suicide bombers and cultural misunderstandings, were in line with others that he and Uchovsky had handled in their movie-making careers.
" We’ve been dealing with explosive subjects and subjects that are not as easy to swallow and handle with all our films," he said, admitting that his dream was that the movie could one day be shown in Arab countries. "The films have reached audiences and created understanding between people." But for now the challenge is finding festivals to screen Israeli films at all, amid strong pro-Palestinian sentiment, especially in Europe, and distaste for the campaign against Hizbollah and the recent Israeli bombing in Lebanon.
" During and after the war, film festivals canceled screening of Israeli films because of the negative sentiment against Israel, and I can understand some of these emotions and I can identify with some of them," Fox said at the public screening of the movie. " I think they made a mistake, because it is our job to make films. It’s our job to use film as a means of dialog, even in the worst times, when people are making terrible mistakes."
The film, with close parallels to Shakespeare’s tragedy, had the working title "Romeo and Julio." But Fox switched to "The Bubble" to better reflect what is going on in Israel today. " It sounded kind of corny, and we didn’t want to just limit ourselves to the love story," he said.
(For more stories related to the Toronto Film Festival, please go to http://today.reuters.com/news/globalcoverage.aspx?type=filmfests &src=cms)
October 2, 2006
Coming out in Arabic–Aswat Lesbian Organization
Brian Whitaker reports on a lesbian group’s struggle for acceptance in the Middle East. When Rauda Morcos heard there was an emailing list for lesbian Palestinians, she couldn’t believe it at first. " I thought it was a joke," she said. "Until then, I thought I was the only lesbian who speaks Arabic." The list was certainly not a joke but, in a society where same-sex relations are still taboo, its members guarded their privacy. The only way a newcomer could join was by personal recommendation. " Eventually I got in," Ms Morcos recalled, "and I found a lot of other [lesbian] women who couldn’t be out." After corresponding by email for a few months, she thought it would be good to talk with some of the invisible women face to face, so, in January 2003, Ms Morcos and her flatmate called a meeting.
" We had no expectations," she said, "but eight women turned up. The meeting lasted eight hours and I don’t think anybody wanted to go home." That, it later turned out, marked the birth of Aswat ("Voices") – the first openly-functioning organisation for Arab lesbians in the Middle East. " We realised we had a great responsibility towards other women in our community," Ms Morcos continued. "We tried to contact many organisations and sent out letters but the only reply came from Kayan ["Being"], a group of feminists in Haifa … Many NGOs don’t count it as a human rights issue or want to be associated."
Three years on, though, Aswat is firmly established with more than 70 members spread across the West Bank, Gaza and Israel (where the organisation is based). Only about 20 attend its meetings; the need to keep their sexuality secret, plus Israeli restrictions on movement, prevent others from attending but they keep in touch through email and an online discussion forum. Beyond the group itself, there are also signs of acceptance in a few places. "We do a lot of work within the community, for example with youth groups, counsellors, and so on," Ms Morcos said. "That proves to me at least that the gay/lesbian movement has started for us as Palestinians."
One of Aswat’s main goals is to provide information about sexuality that is widely available elsewhere but has never been published in Arabic. This is not simply a matter of translation; it’s also about developing "a ‘mother tongue’ with positive, un-derogatory and affirmative expressions of women and lesbian sexuality and gender … We are creating a language that no one spoke before". If women are to find their voice, the language needs to be re-appropriated, Ms Morcos explains in an article on Aswat’s website. "I have forgotten my language. I don’t know how to say ‘to make love’ in Arabic without it sounding chauvinistic, aggressive and alien to the experience."
Recognition for Aswat’s work came earlier this year when Ms Morcos won the 2006 Felipa de Souza award from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. The citation described her as "a true example of courageous and effective human rights leadership", but Ms Morcos is quick to point out that other women are also doing a lot of work behind the scenes.
Speaking to a standing-room-only meeting of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign during a visit to London last week, she explained that necessity has made her the public face of Aswat. Many of the women involved do not want to be identified – often with good reason. "But if we don’t want to come out as persons, let’s at least come out as a movement," she said.
Ms Morcos’s own coming-out was not entirely voluntary and proved particularly unpleasant. In 2003 she gave an interview to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot about the poetry she writes. In passing, she mentioned her sexuality – only to find that the L-word turned up in the newspaper’s headline. An article on Aswat’s website describes what happened next: " All of a sudden, the Arab population of her home town [in northern Israel], which she generally assumed to have no interest in the literary supplements of Hebrew newspapers, seemed to have read the article and had something to say about her. Local corner shop owners made photocopies and distributed it, because, after all, everyone knew it was about the daughter of so-and-so from their own town.
" The consequences of that article were far more serious than Ms Morcos had imagined: her car windows were smashed and tyres were punctured several times, she received innumerable threatening letters and phone calls, and, to top it all, ‘coincidentally’ lost her job as a school teacher, since parents of pupils complained that they did not want her as a teacher."
Arab society today is riddled with the kind of anti-gay prejudices that were found in Britain half a century ago, and persecution is common. Muslim clerics condemn homosexuality in no uncertain terms, though similar statements can be heard from Arab Christian leaders too, such as the Coptic Pope in Egypt who once declared that "so-called human rights" for gay people were "unthinkable". With a few exceptions here and there, this is the prevailing attitude in all the Arab countries, but in Palestinian society the issue of gay rights is further complicated – and made much more political – by the conflict with Israel.
Israel legalised same-sex relations between men in 1988. Four years later, it went a step further and became the only country in the Middle East that outlaws discrimination based on sexuality. A series of court cases then put the theory into practice – for example, when El Al was forced to provide a free ticket for the partner of a gay flight attendant, as the airline already did for the partners of its straight employees.
These are undisputed achievements but they have also become a propaganda tool, reinforcing Israel’s claim to be the only liberal, democratic society in the Middle East. At the same time, highlighting Israel’s association with gay rights has made life more difficult for gay Arabs, adding grist to the popular notion that homosexuality is a "disease" spread by foreigners.
Linking the twin enemies of Israel and homosexuality provides a double whammy for Arab propagandists, as can be seen from sections of the Egyptian press. In an article to mark the 30th anniversary of the October war, a headline in the Egyptian paper Sabah al-Kheir announced: "Golda Meir was a lesbian." In 2001, following the mass arrest of more than 50 allegedly gay men, al-Musawwar magazine published a doctored photograph of the supposed ringleader, showing him in an Israeli army helmet and sitting at a desk with an Israeli flag.
Israel, however, is not quite the gay paradise that many imagine. There is still hostility from conservative Jews, and some of their blood-curdling statements are not very different from the more widely publicised remarks of Muslim clerics. In Jerusalem last year, the ultra-Orthodox mayor banned a pride march, though an Israeli court promptly overturned his decision. As the parade took place, a Jewish religious fanatic attacked three marchers with a knife and reportedly told the police he had come "to kill in the name of God". The gay rights movement in Israel also has a questionable history. Lee Walzer, author of Between Sodom and Eden, explains in an article that the first Israeli activists pursued "a very mainstream strategy" that "reinforced the perception that gay rights was a non-partisan issue, unconnected to the major fissure in Israeli politics, the Arab-Israeli conflict and how to resolve it". " Embracing gay rights," he continues, "enabled Israelis to pat themselves on the back for being open-minded, even as Israeli society wrestled less successfully with other social inequalities."
As part of their strategy, activists sought "to convince the wider public that gay Israelis were good patriotic citizens who just happened to be attracted to the same sex". As a general principle this may be valid, but in the context of war and occupation it leads into murky territory. Should it really be a matter of pride that openly gay members of the Israeli armed forces are just as capable of wreaking havoc on neighbouring Lebanon as the next person?
The question here is whether gay rights – in Israel or elsewhere – can really be divorced from politics or treated in isolation from other human rights. Helem, the Lebanese gay and lesbian organisation, thinks not, arguing that gay rights are an inseparable part of human rights – as does Ms Morcos.
For Ms Morcos, there’s a connection between nationality, gender and sexuality. She has a triple identity, as a lesbian, a woman and a Palestinian (despite having an Israeli passport) – "a minority within a minority within a minority", as she puts it. Her first concern, though, is to end the Israeli occupation, and she sees no prospect of achieving gay rights for Palestinians while it continues.
Nowadays, the more radical Israeli activists also acknowledge a linkage. In 2001, Walzer recalls, "Tel Aviv’s pride parade, typically a celebratory, hedonistic affair, got a dose of politics when a contingent called ‘Gays in Black’ marched with a banner proclaiming, ‘There’s No Pride In Occupation’." Later, a group called Kvisa Sh’chora ("Dirty Laundry") sprang up and began drawing parallels between the oppression of sexual minorities and Israeli oppression of the Palestinians.
The issue was further highlighted in 2002 when Ariel Sharon became the first Israeli prime minister to formally meet a gay delegation. Activist Hagai El-Ad asked: "Is this an achievement for our community, or an example of a lack of feeling, callousness and loss of direction?" He continued: "It would be unbearable to simply sit with the prime minister and, on behalf of our minority, ignore the human rights of others, including what’s been happening here in relation to Palestine for the past year: roadblocks, prevention of access to medical care, assassinations, and implementation of an apartheid policy in the territories and in Israel.
" The struggle for our rights is worthless if it’s indifferent to what’s happening to people a kilometre from here. " All we get by holding the meeting with the prime minister," he concluded, "is symbolic legitimacy for the community. What he gets for sitting down with us is the mantle of enlightenment and pluralism."
This mantle of enlightenment and pluralism does not, however, extend to Israel’s treatment of gay Palestinians. For those who face persecution in the West Bank and Gaza, the most obvious escape route is to Israel, but this often leaves them trapped in an administrative no-man’s-land with little hope of getting a proper job in Israel and constantly at risk of arrest and deportation.
Meanwhile, as far as the average Palestinian is concerned, fleeing into Israel is a betrayal of the cause, and gay men who remain in the Palestinian territories also come under suspicion – not always without good reason. There have been various reports of gay Palestinians being targeted or pressurised by Israeli intelligence to act as informers. Whether or not they actually succumb to the pressure, all inevitably come under suspicion. " Gays in Palestine are seen as collaborators immediately," said Ms Morcos.
Aswat MIddle East Lesbian website:
October 2 2006
Middle East dispatch Coming out in Arabic
Brian Whitaker reports on a lesbian group’s struggle for acceptance in the Middle East
(Article historyAbout this articleClose This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Monday October 02 2006. It was last updated at 13:46 on October 02 2006.When Rauda Morcos heard there was an emailing list for lesbian Palestinians, she couldn’t believe it at first. "I thought it was a joke," she said. "Until then, I thought I was the only lesbian who speaks Arabic.")
The list was certainly not a joke but, in a society where same-sex relations are still taboo, its members guarded their privacy. The only way a newcomer could join was by personal recommendation. "Eventually I got in," Ms Morcos recalled, "and I found a lot of other [lesbian] women who couldn’t be out." After corresponding by email for a few months, she thought it would be good to talk with some of the invisible women face to face, so, in January 2003, Ms Morcos and her flatmate called a meeting. "We had no expectations," she said, "but eight women turned up. The meeting lasted eight hours and I don’t think anybody wanted to go home."
That, it later turned out, marked the birth of Aswat ("Voices") – the first openly-functioning organisation for Arab lesbians in the Middle East. "We realised we had a great responsibility towards other women in our community," Ms Morcos continued. "We tried to contact many organisations and sent out letters but the only reply came from Kayan ["Being"], a group of feminists in Haifa … Many NGOs don’t count it as a human rights issue or want to be associated."
Three years on, though, Aswat is firmly established with more than 70 members spread across the West Bank, Gaza and Israel (where the organisation is based). Only about 20 attend its meetings; the need to keep their sexuality secret, plus Israeli restrictions on movement, prevent others from attending but they keep in touch through email and an online discussion forum. Beyond the group itself, there are also signs of acceptance in a few places. "We do a lot of work within the community, for example with youth groups, counsellors, and so on," Ms Morcos said. "That proves to me at least that the gay/lesbian movement has started for us as Palestinians."
One of Aswat’s main goals is to provide information about sexuality that is widely available elsewhere but has never been published in Arabic. This is not simply a matter of translation; it’s also about developing "a ‘mother tongue’ with positive, un-derogatory and affirmative expressions of women and lesbian sexuality and gender … We are creating a language that no one spoke before". If women are to find their voice, the language needs to be re-appropriated, Ms Morcos explains in an article on Aswat’s website. "I have forgotten my language. I don’t know how to say ‘to make love’ in Arabic without it sounding chauvinistic, aggressive and alien to the experience." Recognition for Aswat’s work came earlier this year when Ms Morcos won the 2006 Felipa de Souza award from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. The citation described her as "a true example of courageous and effective human rights leadership", but Ms Morcos is quick to point out that other women are also doing a lot of work behind the scenes.
Speaking to a standing-room-only meeting of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign during a visit to London last week, she explained that necessity has made her the public face of Aswat. Many of the women involved do not want to be identified – often with good reason. "But if we don’t want to come out as persons, let’s at least come out as a movement," she said. Ms Morcos’s own coming-out was not entirely voluntary and proved particularly unpleasant. In 2003 she gave an interview to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot about the poetry she writes. In passing, she mentioned her sexuality – only to find that the L-word turned up in the newspaper’s headline. An article on Aswat’s website describes what happened next:
"All of a sudden, the Arab population of her home town [in northern Israel], which she generally assumed to have no interest in the literary supplements of Hebrew newspapers, seemed to have read the article and had something to say about her. Local corner shop owners made photocopies and distributed it, because, after all, everyone knew it was about the daughter of so-and-so from their own town. The consequences of that article were far more serious than Ms Morcos had imagined: her car windows were smashed and tyres were punctured several times, she received innumerable threatening letters and phone calls, and, to top it all, ‘coincidentally’ lost her job as a school teacher, since parents of pupils complained that they did not want her as a teacher."
Arab society today is riddled with the kind of anti-gay prejudices that were found in Britain half a century ago, and persecution is common. Muslim clerics condemn homosexuality in no uncertain terms, though similar statements can be heard from Arab Christian leaders too, such as the Coptic Pope in Egypt who once declared that "so-called human rights" for gay people were "unthinkable". With a few exceptions here and there, this is the prevailing attitude in all the Arab countries, but in Palestinian society the issue of gay rights is further complicated – and made much more political – by the conflict with Israel. Israel legalised same-sex relations between men in 1988. Four years later, it went a step further and became the only country in the Middle East that outlaws discrimination based on sexuality. A series of court cases then put the theory into practice – for example, when El Al was forced to provide a free ticket for the partner of a gay flight attendant, as the airline already did for the partners of its straight employees.
These are undisputed achievements but they have also become a propaganda tool, reinforcing Israel’s claim to be the only liberal, democratic society in the Middle East. At the same time, highlighting Israel’s association with gay rights has made life more difficult for gay Arabs, adding grist to the popular notion that homosexuality is a "disease" spread by foreigners. Linking the twin enemies of Israel and homosexuality provides a double whammy for Arab propagandists, as can be seen from sections of the Egyptian press. In an article to mark the 30th anniversary of the October war, a headline in the Egyptian paper Sabah al-Kheir announced: "Golda Meir was a lesbian." In 2001, following the mass arrest of more than 50 allegedly gay men, al-Musawwar magazine published a doctored photograph of the supposed ringleader, showing him in an Israeli army helmet and sitting at a desk with an Israeli flag.
Israel, however, is not quite the gay paradise that many imagine. There is still hostility from conservative Jews, and some of their blood-curdling statements are not very different from the more widely publicised remarks of Muslim clerics. In Jerusalem last year, the ultra-Orthodox mayor banned a pride march, though an Israeli court promptly overturned his decision. As the parade took place, a Jewish religious fanatic attacked three marchers with a knife and reportedly told the police he had come "to kill in the name of God". The gay rights movement in Israel also has a questionable history. Lee Walzer, author of Between Sodom and Eden, explains in an article that the first Israeli activists pursued "a very mainstream strategy" that "reinforced the perception that gay rights was a non-partisan issue, unconnected to the major fissure in Israeli politics, the Arab-Israeli conflict and how to resolve it. Embracing gay rights," he continues, "enabled Israelis to pat themselves on the back for being open-minded, even as Israeli society wrestled less successfully with other social inequalities."
As part of their strategy, activists sought "to convince the wider public that gay Israelis were good patriotic citizens who just happened to be attracted to the same sex". As a general principle this may be valid, but in the context of war and occupation it leads into murky territory. Should it really be a matter of pride that openly gay members of the Israeli armed forces are just as capable of wreaking havoc on neighbouring Lebanon as the next person? The question here is whether gay rights – in Israel or elsewhere – can really be divorced from politics or treated in isolation from other human rights. Helem, the Lebanese gay and lesbian organisation, thinks not, arguing that gay rights are an inseparable part of human rights – as does Ms Morcos.
For Ms Morcos, there’s a connection between nationality, gender and sexuality. She has a triple identity, as a lesbian, a woman and a Palestinian (despite having an Israeli passport) – "a minority within a minority within a minority", as she puts it. Her first concern, though, is to end the Israeli occupation, and she sees no prospect of achieving gay rights for Palestinians while it continues. Nowadays, the more radical Israeli activists also acknowledge a linkage. In 2001, Walzer recalls, "Tel Aviv’s pride parade, typically a celebratory, hedonistic affair, got a dose of politics when a contingent called ‘Gays in Black’ marched with a banner proclaiming, ‘There’s No Pride In Occupation’." Later, a group called Kvisa Sh’chora ("Dirty Laundry") sprang up and began drawing parallels between the oppression of sexual minorities and Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. The issue was further highlighted in 2002 when Ariel Sharon became the first Israeli prime minister to formally meet a gay delegation. Activist Hagai El-Ad asked: "Is this an achievement for our community, or an example of a lack of feeling, callousness and loss of direction?"
He continued: "It would be unbearable to simply sit with the prime minister and, on behalf of our minority, ignore the human rights of others, including what’s been happening here in relation to Palestine for the past year: roadblocks, prevention of access to medical care, assassinations, and implementation of an apartheid policy in the territories and in Israel. The struggle for our rights is worthless if it’s indifferent to what’s happening to people a kilometre from here. All we get by holding the meeting with the prime minister," he concluded, "is symbolic legitimacy for the community. What he gets for sitting down with us is the mantle of enlightenment and pluralism."
This mantle of enlightenment and pluralism does not, however, extend to Israel’s treatment of gay Palestinians. For those who face persecution in the West Bank and Gaza, the most obvious escape route is to Israel, but this often leaves them trapped in an administrative no-man’s-land with little hope of getting a proper job in Israel and constantly at risk of arrest and deportation. Meanwhile, as far as the average Palestinian is concerned, fleeing into Israel is a betrayal of the cause, and gay men who remain in the Palestinian territories also come under suspicion – not always without good reason. There have been various reports of gay Palestinians being targeted or pressurised by Israeli intelligence to act as informers. Whether or not they actually succumb to the pressure, all inevitably come under suspicion.
"Gays in Palestine are seen as collaborators immediately," said Ms Morcos.
October 3, 2006
Israeli army chief makes peace with gays
Jerusalem – Israel’s top general made peace with the country’s gay community on Tuesday after he seemed to suggest publicly that homosexuality was unspeakable. Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz, the military’s chief of staff, was quoted by Israeli media as saying in a speech last month: "There are two genders — men and women. Actually there is another one you are not allowed to mention."
Shai Doitch, spokesman for Aguda, Israel’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender association, said Halutz told the group that he had not referred to gays when he made his comments. He did not specify who the comments referred to. " The environment (at the meeting) was very accepting," Doitch said. "We made our points and the army chief noted them and promised to deal with them."
Israel’s military, which conscripts men and women at the age of 18, allows people who are openly gay to serve in its ranks. Aguda’s chairman, Mike Hamel, said while there was no official discrimination in the ranks, gays still faced the same difficulties they encountered in civilian life. An Israeli army statement said a liaison officer would be appointed to deal with the gay community’s concerns, adding: "The army is open to the service of the men and women of the (gay) community in all levels of command and for any duty." Halutz has come under fire in Israel over his handling of the recent war in Lebanon against Hizbollah guerrillas. Military affairs commentators and legislators have questioned whether Halutz had relied too heavily on air power — which failed to halt Hizbollah rocket attacks on Israel — in the early stages of the 34-day war.
October 26, 2006
Foreign Ministry promoting Gay Israel
by Tovah Lazaroff
The Foreign Ministry is promoting Gay Israel as part of its campaigns to break apart the negative stereotypes many liberal Americans and Europeans have of Israel. The initiative flies in the face of the swelling protest against Jerusalem’s Gay Pride parade set for November 10. But even as its organizers are receiving anonymous threats of a holy war against them, Gay activist Michael Hamel is traveling in Europe and North America working on publicizing Gay Israel.
A portion of his work, he told The Jerusalem Post by phone as he sat drinking coffee in a California airport, has the support of the Foreign Ministry. " We are working very closely with them," said Hamel, who heads the The AGUDAH, Israel’s Association of Gay Men, Lesbians, Bisexuals and_Transgenders. As part of its joint work with the Foreign Ministry, said Hamel, they were going to bring Gay journalists to Israel last summer, but the event was canceled because of the war with Lebanon. It is also working on a map of Gay Tel Aviv.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Foreign Ministry official told The Jerusalem Post this week that efforts to let European and American liberals know about the gay community in Israel were an important part of its work to highlight this country’s support of human rights and to underscore its diversity in a population that tends to judge Israel harshly solely on its treatment of Palestinians. Still it’s a topic that is so touchy, he did not want his name used. But David Saranga, who works in the New York consulate, was more open about the need to promote Gay Israel as part of showing liberal America that Israel is more than the place where Jesus once walked.
The gay culture is an entryway to the liberal culture, he said, because in New York, it’s that culture that is creating "a buzz." Israel needs to show this community that it is relevant to them by promoting gay tourism, gay artists and films. Showing young, liberal Americans that Israel also has a gay culture goes a long toward informing them that Israel is a place that respects human rights, as well, said Saranga. Hamel said that portraying Israel as a place where normal life occurs, including gay culture, helps people relate to it as a place much like the country in which they live. Among the stops in his trip was a conference in Madrid to place Israel in the running to host the Europe Pride event in 2009 as part of Tel Aviv’s centennial celebrations. " We are also trying to promote gay tourism in Israel," said Hamel, who said that he works to include material on Israel at Gay conferences and in tourism shows.
He is also working on an Internet site that will be devoted to gay tourism in Israel, and speaks about Israel’s efforts to help Gay Palestinians who are persecuted in the West Bank. In some instances they have been killed and tortured, said Hamel. Israel is the only country that is trying to help them, he said. Just knowing that gives people a different outlook, he said. " We come and we say Israel is not exactly the monster you thought it was," Hamel said.
November 7, 2006
Gay parade stirs storm in Israel
by Ofira Koopmans
Jerusalem – Plans by Israel’s homosexual community to hold a gay pride parade in Jerusalem this Friday have stirred a growing storm in the Jewish state. On a now almost nightly basis, ultra-Orthodox demonstrators have for the past week been taking to the streets of Jerusalem, protesting against the parade by burning garbage bins and hurling stones, wooden stakes and iron bars at police. More than 10 people have been injured, among them a motorist who is in moderate condition after his car was hit by a burning trash can Monday night. At least 60 rioters have been arrested so far, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. The protests have spread to several other locations in Israel, including the ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak.
In one instant, protesters threw a Molotov cocktail at police. ‘We see an escalation as the date of the parade is nearing,’ Rosenfeld told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. Police say they have intelligence that right-wing and ultra- Orthodox activists are planning to disrupt the parade. Their worst- case scenario includes hordes of counter-demonstrators breaking through police barriers and scuffling with participants in the parade, or lone infiltrators stabbing marchers, spilling acid or throwing fruit containing razor blades at them. At a similar parade in the city last year, three gay marchers were stabbed and lightly injured.
The religious anti-parade activists have organized sleep-overs for protesters planning to come to Jerusalem from elsewhere in Israel Friday, so that these will not have to break the Sabbath by travelling back at night. Police, balancing their concern for public safety versus the right of freedom of expression, have recommended the parade be cancelled. But the country’s attorney-general, in a decision which immediately spurred another outbreak of violent protests Sunday, has refused, saying giving in to the threats would mean a blow to Israel’s ‘democratic character.’ Instead, police and the organizers of the event, Jerusalem’s Open House for gay, lesbians, bi-sexuals and trans-genders, have agreed on a different, shorter route further away from the city centre, which will make it easier to protect the crowd.
As many as 12,000 policemen and women are due to be deployed in Jerusalem Friday and police will be on their highest level of alert, said Rosenfeld. Passions were further inflamed when Cabinet Minister Eli Yishai of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party filed another petition Tuesday to the supreme court, demanding it stop the parade seen as an insult to Jerusalem’s religious inhabitants. Two ultra-right activists had earlier also filed petitions on which the court is due to rule Wednesday. ‘I filed in person as a citizen to the supreme court to prevent the march of abomination from taking place,’ the trade and industry minister told reporters at the court. ‘Why didn’t they try to hold it in Mecca or the Vatican?’ he asked sarcastically, referring to Jerusalem’s holy character.
Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski meanwhile added his voice to the growing number of senior Israeli leaders speaking out either in favour or against the parade taking place. ‘This is a time to prove real tolerance and maturity and to cancel the march in the heart of Jerusalem for the benefit of all of us,’ said the mayor, himself an ultra-Orthodox. A supreme rabbinical court of the ultra-Orthodox Haredi community in Israel is even weighing to issue a so-called ‘Pulsa Denura’ (‘whip of fire’ in Aramaic) against the organizers – a curse that is believed to bring death within a year. Similar curses were issued by fanatic Jewish leaders against late Israeli premier Yitzhak Rabin for his peace moves with the Palestinians and against former premier Ariel Sharon for his withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
But the organizers are more determined then ever to go ahead. ‘We are holding a march without trucks, without naked boys, without nudity of any kind or bold expressions of sexuality of any kind,’ Elena Canetti, Jerusalem Open House’s chairwoman, told dpa stressing: ‘We don’t want to and we don’t try to offend anyone.’ She insisted on calling it a march, rather than parade. ‘A march is more of a demonstration, because we march for our rights as equal citizens in Jerusalem.’
November 08, 2006
Bomb Scare Points to Anti-Gay Parade Extremists
A suspicious bag that was evidently purposefully left at a bus stop on a major Jerusalem street today was stuffed with various papers, including a note that said, "The War of God and Amalek." The note was signed by unidentified "Anti-Gay Pride Parade Action Committee. The note was discovered when police sappers arrived on the scene, after having been called to examine the suspiciously abandoned bag.
On Saturday night, a phony bomb with an anti-parade note attached was found in Jerusalem’s religious Har Nof neighborhood. On Thursday, police disarmed a homemade explosive device left at the security booth at the entrance to the Samarian community of Eli. The bomb had a sign attached to it saying, "Sodomites Out!
November 8, 2006
‘Scope of gay pride operation ‘unprecedented”
by JPost.com Staff
Friday’s planned Gay Pride March will be protected by some 9,000 police, an operation Jerusalem Police Chief Ilan Franco described Wednesday as one of the "most extensive [he] could remember." Franco said permission was given for 5,000 gay rights activists to march through a nonresidential area away from the city center and to hold a closing rally in a university stadium there, while 20,000 religious protesters demonstrate against the parade near the Jerusalem central bus station. Other anti-gay demonstrations are expected at main road junctions in Jerusalem and around the country, Franco said. The police deployment is codenamed "Operation Colors of the Rainbow," reflecting the gay movement’s rainbow flag.
"There will be 8,500 to 9,000 police physically present in Jerusalem," Franco said. "That number is unprecedented in its size in any district of the Israeli police to this day."
November 9, 2006
Gay Parade Canceled, Stadium Rally to be Held Instead
In light of dozens of terrorist warnings and hundreds of thousands of expected protestors, the homosexual parade scheduled for Friday has been replaced by a rally. Only minor protests are expected. While the Supreme Court prepares to hand down its response to four petitioners who demand that the parade be legally stopped, the organizers have essentially thrown in the towel on their own. Fearful that the police would cancel the parade because of both increasing terror warnings and unyielding religious-community threats to actively protest it, the Jerusalem Open House – organizer of the parade – pre-emptively canceled it on its own.
Instead, it will hold a closed event in the stadium of the Givat Ram campus of Hebrew University, not far from the government complex. Organizers of the religious protests convened afterwards to decide if and how to continue the protests. One rabbi from the Shas Party camp, Rabbi Eldad Shmueli, said that though he perceived a victory of sorts, "it is still our obligation to protest against a public display of rebellion against G-d. True, it is not in the streets – but it is in an open stadium, and the desecration is nearly the same… We cannot be concerned with public opinion, but rather with protesting against open rebellion against G-d’s will."
Speaking with Arutz-7, Rabbi Shmueli explained how he sees the "Divine hand" in evidence throughout the last few months: "The left-wing public often threatens that when they finish with the Arab problem and bring peace, then they’ll start dealing with the religious problems – which means to make war with us. So we see that when they wanted to hold this international abomination parade last summer, the war in Lebanon came along to stop them. And now again, they were about to hold it – and suddenly comes this event in Beit Hanoun with the 20 dead that compels the police to have to deal with terror threats. Not to mention that some of them simply became afraid to march…"
The organizers of other protests were also convening this afternoon to decide how to respond to the victory. Yaakov Shternberg of Jerusalem, one of the organizers of the religious-Zionist protests, told Arutz-7, "Basically, we have already won. But we may still hold a dignified mass protest in Kiryat Moshe [a Jerusalem neighborhood just west of Givat Ram] in any event."
Afterwards, at approximately 4 PM, it was learned that the leaders of the largest groups of protestors – hareidi-religious sage Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Eida Hareidit head Rabbi Yitzchak Tuvia Weiss – had agreed not to protest against the planned stadium rally tomorrow. However, their conditions include: the release of all the hareidi protestors arrested this week, no parade next year, and no signs of the rally outside the stadium. It is likely that only the first condition will be fulfilled.
Meanwhile, the Komemiyut religious activist organization conducted a parade of sheep, horses, dogs and donkeys in Jerusalem this afternoon, in protest of the homosexual march. The theme of the parade is that bestiality and homosexuality are both forbidden, in consecutive verses, by the same Torah (Leviticus 18). A court petition by an animal rights’ organization against the march was turned down, but the organizers were warned to treat the animals without cruelty.
In the Supreme Court
Rabbi Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, head of the ZAKA organization; Chief Rabbi of Rehovot, Rabbi Simcha HaCohen Kook; Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai, head of the Shas party; and right-wing activist Baruch Marzel of Hevron all filed anti-gay parade petitions with the Supreme Court this week. Rabbi Kook burst into tears during Wednesday’s proceedings. Despite petitioners’ warnings that allowing the event would likely result in violence and possibly bloodshed, the judges did not appear to favor any move to relocate, postpone or block the parade.
“The question of violence must be dropped because there is no way to ‘find a balance’ between freedom of speech and violence,” said Judge Ayala Procaccia. “The police will not give in to it and the court will not give in to it.”
Opposition in Israel, New York, and the Vatican
In addition to this week’s daily and nightly violent protests by hareidi-religious Jews in various communities around Israel, new voices were added Wednesday to the massive groundswell against the homosexual march in the nation’s capital. Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky told reporters that he personally opposes the parade, but noted that police would be able to protect the marchers if they go ahead with the event. The mayor added, however, that the police would not be able to stop the widespread protests, the violence, the widening chasm in Israeli society and the property damage that will result from the protests.
The leader of Jerusalem’s Eida Hareidit Rabbinical Court, Rabbi Yitzchak Tuvia Weiss, has contacted hareidi-Orthodox leaders affiliated with the Satmar Hassidic sect in New York City to coordinate overseas protests. It was decided that on Thursday at 3:30 PM, a protest would be held outside the Israeli Consulate on 42nd Street in Manhattan. The protest is expected to draw tens of thousands. Satmar, based in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, is affiliated with the Eida Hareidit and is considered the largest hassidic sect in the world, numbering over 120,000 members.
The Vatican released a statement on Wednesday night, calling on Israel to rethink permitting the gay parade. The Vatican stated permitting the parade will be an affront to all three religions -Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – and called on Israel to limit freedom of speech to that which is correct.
Jerusalem Police Chief Ilan Franco announced last night that he would ask Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to delay the parade in view of the nationwide security alert. Israel police are operating on a Level 3 alert following the deaths of 19 Arab civilians in an apparent IDF mishap during a retaliatory artillery attack against rocket launching areas in northern Gaza. Palestinian Authority leaders and terrorist organizations have called for Arabs to attack Jews both in Israel and worldwide.
Police reported more than 80 terror alerts this morning, including 15 “hot alerts,” referring to credible intelligence information of specific planned attacks. The alert status was expected to move to Level 4 Friday morning if the parade was to have been held as scheduled
November 5, 2006 – November 11, 2006
Israel holds gay pride parade
Israel’s gay community braved vehement opposition from religious fundamentalists and held a large rally Friday in Jerusalem, complete with live rock music, dancing and declarations of pride, AP reported. Nearly 4,000 revelers flocked to the Hebrew University Givat Ram stadium, about the same number as attended last year’s gay pride march in the city, where Jewish, Muslim and Christian opposition to the events runs high. Participants were mainly dressed in regular street clothes – making it a far more staid affair than gay pride events in the more permissive city of Tel Aviv – although one bearded man sported the black hat and jacket usually worn by ultra-Orthodox men, but with a magenta-colored taffeta skirt and candy-striped tights. Police said 3,000 officers were deployed to secure the rally. Five protesters, some of them armed with knives and batons, were arrested during a brief scuffle with a small group of gay activists who tried to march along the planned route, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
November 11, 2006
Gay rights rally comes off without a hitch
by Rebecca Anna Stoil, The Jerusalem Post
Jerusalem’s main 2006 gay pride event ended without major incident early Friday afternoon, and as the attendees began to stream out of the Hebrew University stadium, police breathed a sigh of relief. They had successfully passed what Jerusalem District chief Cmdr. Ilan Franco described as "one of the most complex tests that the Jerusalem Police and the Israel Police as a whole have had to face."
Vatican steps into row over J’lem Gay Pride Parade
Gay icon Ivri Lider shows Americans a new side of Israel?For a Jerusalem Online video of events click here Some 3,000 officers were deployed, while estimates of the number of demonstrators ran between 2,000 and 6,000. In any case, the police to protester ratio was very high and – barring a single incident – nothing interrupted the festivities. That incident took place a few minutes after the event began, when a man in his thirties who police said entered the compound by pretending to be gay jumped onto the podium while calling out anti-homosexual slogans. He was detained for questioning. A few minutes later – in what turned out to be a dramatic false alarm – police detained five Orthodox youths in Gan Sacher carrying knuckle-dusters, clubs and knives, as well as a legally-licensed handgun. Police soon discovered that the five had come to the park to practice martial arts, and that they had no intent of assaulting rally participants.
Speakers at the rally reiterated their intention to stand strong in the face of threats and their disappointment in political leaders for failing to do more to quiet the tension in Jerusalem in recent weeks. "We did not expect such wild incitement on the part of so many public figures. We didn’t expect such an embarrassing silence from our leaders," said Jerusalem City Council Member Sa’ar Netanel (Meretz). "During days such as these when one group terrorizes another group, the leaders of the country should have stood up and said, ‘This is enough.’"
Netanel singled out Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski for going "underground while his city burned." He also cited the silence of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose daughter Dana, a lesbian, was reportedly present at the march. The crowd also responded enthusiastically to Adam Russo, who was stabbed during last year’s Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade. He took to the stage with the rainbow flag that he had carried during the 2005 year’s march. "It is easy to see that justice is on our side. This is an another important signpost on the way to liberating Jerusalem," Russo said. "The blood that was on last year’s flag will not stop the march."
Ninety minutes before the event began, an incident in Jerusalem’s Bell Park threatened to ruin the quiet. A group described by police as "a few dozen extremist homosexuals" violated the deal reached Thursday between the event’s organizers, the Jerusalem Open House, and police in which the participants agreed not to parade through Jerusalem’s streets. The group in the park was trying to hold a march from the park to the Givat Ram campus a few kilometers away. A handful of ultra-right-wing activists including Noam Federman, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel arrived at the same spot, and tensions ran high as the two groups traded insults. Police prevented the gay rights activists from taking to the streets and kept the two groups from coming to blows. About 30 gay rights activists were detained for questioning when they refused to board buses to Givat Ram. One right-wing activist was also taken into custody.
November 11, 2006
Beating in Jerusalem ends gay Palestinian Americans’ plans –One man in group allegedly attacked by angry Muslims
by Matthew Kalman, Chronicle Foreign Service
Jerusalem – A group of gay Palestinian Americans canceled a planned pride march in East Jerusalem on Friday after one of them was beaten unconscious by a local man who said he was from the Waqf Muslim religious authority. The beating incident occurred on the same day an Israeli gay pride rally went ahead as scheduled, though without a planned march through city streets. The march had been called off after threats by religious and right-wing opponents to mount huge counterdemonstrations. Only minor violence marred the event.
East Jerusalem was close to total lockdown Friday — a combination of a three-day general strike called in mourning for the deaths in the Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun on Wednesday, and the resulting Israeli security alert to prevent retaliatory suicide attacks. Israeli security officials said they had more than 80 specific intelligence warnings of planned terror attacks against Israeli targets and raised the alert level to Daled or "D," the highest. Israeli police clamped a total closure on the West Bank, preventing all Palestinians from entering Israel except those living in East Jerusalem. In the East Jerusalem beating, two men — one wielding a knife — came looking for the group of gay Palestinian Americans who were staying at the Faisal Hostel near the Damascus Gate of the Old City. One of the assailants identified himself as being from the Waqf, the clerical trust that administers Muslim religious sites in the city.
"I’m pretty terrified right now," said Daoud, an MBA student from Detroit who declined to give his full name. "We left the hostel immediately, but when my friend went back to collect some things, they were waiting for him. They asked if he was with ‘the homos’ and then started beating him." He said the victim, from Chicago, was badly beaten, knocked down a flight of stairs and left unconscious. The man, whose name was withheld for his safety, was taken to the El-Mokassed Hospital in East Jerusalem for treatment. "It was very scary. These two guys came in and said they had heard we were planning to march. They drew a knife and said if we marched they would cut our heads off. They sounded like they meant it," he said. Daoud said nine gay Palestinian Americans had come to Jerusalem to join the pride march. "Maybe I was just being naive. I heard about the pride rally, and I thought it would be nice for us to do something together as a gay community," he said. "We got a different kind of reception instead."
In America, he said, "you have some tolerance and appreciation and understanding of what it means to be gay and to be a Palestinian. We’re discovering the hard way it’s not so acceptable here." Rotem Biran, 25, a hotel sales executive from Tel Aviv, said she was disappointed not to be able to march with the Palestinians from East Jerusalem. But by the time she arrived at the Faisal Hostel, Daoud and his friends had disappeared. "Gay Palestinians are really afraid," she said. "It’s not the same as being Jewish and gay. For them, it’s dangerous. They can’t really do anything openly in their own community because it’s so strict, so they come all the way to Tel Aviv to be with other gay people." Friday’s rally, held at the Hebrew University sports stadium, was a low-key affair that passed off largely peacefully. More than 2,000 participants were protected by about 3,000 police officers. One ultra-Orthodox protester who managed to sneak into the event was arrested after he jumped onstage and began screaming anti-gay slogans.
Across town, California-born David Sheen, a founder of the East Bay City Repair project in Oakland, was one of 30 gay activists who were arrested after trying to march to the stadium where the rally was being held. Sheen, 32, wore a pink shirt bearing the words "My God is a lesbian," in Hebrew. Sheen, who describes himself as an "eco-freako," now lives in southern Israel and builds houses from earth. He said it was important for gay people in Israel to rally and speak out "because we’re beautiful. And because we live here, and these are our streets." Noam Federman, an anti-gay religious activist, warned people not to touch the marchers for fear of catching AIDS and held a banner denouncing their "abomination." Five people with him were arrested after they were found carrying brass knuckles, knives and sticks.
"We want to prevent the gays from marching inside Jerusalem," said Federman. "Jerusalem is a holy city to the Jewish people. We waited 2,000 years to get the privilege of having Jerusalem in our hands — not to desecrate the city." Ultra-Orthodox rabbis, the Vatican and Muslim officials had all spoken out this week against the gay march through the streets of Jerusalem, a city holy to all three religions. Ultra-Orthodox Jews had staged rowdy protests all week and threatened violence if the march went ahead.
November 13, 2006
PM’s daughter slams lack of support for gay parade
Speaking to Army Radio, Dana Olmert says achievement of parade is that haredi gays and lesbians know they are not alone
Ynet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s daughter Dana told Army Radio on Sunday that the struggle of the homosexual community in Israel has just began, charging that the community’s rights remain violated.
"There is a continuing history of violence and hatred, there is homophobia. Coming out of the closet is not a one-time struggle," Dana, a lesbian, said. Olmert said that the media presented both sides in an equal manner boosted haredim opposing the parade. "There is on the one hand a group of people who want to march without violence, and their message is not one of hate. And on the other hand there is a group of people who express themselves violently – and the media presents both sides in a politically correct manner. I believe the media should take a stance." She was asked about her father’s silence over the issue and his unwillingness to support the community. "I would have been happy if, as Eliyahui Yishai called it ‘the abomination parade’, someone had answered him from the government system … I don’t like to speak as the daughter of my father. I don’t act in the public sphere as such, but I keep to myself the right to express myself when I think I am right and this is one such time."
November 22, 2006
High Court: Interior Ministry must register same-sex couples legally married abroad
by Yuval Yoaz
In a precedent-setting ruling, the High Court of Justice yesterday ruled that five gay couples who wed outside of Israel can be registered as married couples in the Population Registry. A majority of six justices to one ruled that the Interior Ministry would have to register five gay couples as married based on the civil ceremonies performed in Toronto, Canada. However, the former High Court president, Justice Aharon Barak, said the ruling does not mean the state is recognizing the validity of such marriages, and that listing the couples as married in the Population Registry was a "technical procedure" for "statistical" purposes only.
Nevertheless, the ruling reflects a new stage in the struggle of the gay community to attain civil rights through judicial process. So far the courts have granted same-sex couples property rights but have not entered the fray in terms of issues of personal status. The ruling was given in response to a petition by the five couples – Yossi Ben-Ari and Loren Shuman; Yosef Bar-lev and Yaron Lahav Jonathan Herland and Ayal Walerauch; Russel Lord and Avraham Ozeri; and Shlomi Remez and Tomer Mor. The Interior Ministry had refused to register them as married on the grounds that such marriages were not recognized as legal in Israel. Two of the couples were represented by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and the others by attorney Ohn Antony Stock.
The majority opinion of the court was based on a High Court ruling 42 years ago that when an Interior Ministry official is presented with a legal marriage document from another country, the official has no leeway in deciding whether to register the couple as married and may not refuse to do so. "The petitioners reiterated they are not asking for a ruling on whether their marriage in Canada is valid in Israel, but rather that the registry clerk must register their marriage in the Population Registry on the basis of the marriage certificate presented, without examining the validity of the marriage," Barak wrote. The state argued that the marriages should not be registered because no "legal format" existed in Israel for them, but only a "social format with certain legal relevence."
Barak responded that the Population Registry was not intended to determine the existence or lack of legal formats, and that the registry clerk was not trained to determine whether a recognized legal format existed. However, Barak conceded "the court should not rule on the question of whether same-sex couples can have civil marriage in Israel itself. I accept that the question of civil marriage in Israel, including same-sex marriages, should be determined first and foremost by the legislature. This is not the question before us." However, in the public discourse that developed yesterday following the handing down of the ruling, the differences the High Court was attempting to delineate were blurred. High Court President Dorit Beinisch predicted the response of the gay community to the ruling when she wrote "the fact that from the point of view of the petitioners, there is certainly great importance to the registration and the declaration it encompasses, it does not detract from the significant separation created in this court between the issue of the registration and that of personal status."
Justice Elyakim Rubinstein wrote the sole dissenting opinion. "This is not a statistical registry but a public-social symbol, and that is the real goal of the petitioners. The issue of same-sex couples is relatively new in public discourse and is unfamiliar in most countries in the world, and by its nature it raises difficulties because of the attitude of some parts of the population to it. It is in the realm of the legislature and not in creative interpretation by the court." Rubinstein wrote that ordinary people do not differentiate between the registration of a marriage and the recognition of its status. He also noted that only six out of 190 countries recognized same-sex marriage, and warned of a public loss of confidence in the court following the ruling
November 28, 2006
We Just Want To Be A Normal Couple:
Israel Becomes the First Country in the World to Officially Recognize Canada’s Gay Marriages
Avi Ozeri and Russell Lord triumphantly wave the Israeli Ministry of Interior receipts for their ID cards. Later this week, the postman will deliver their new ID cards in which they will be officially registered by the government as married – almost 25 years after they first began living together.
Last week, Ozeri and Lord, and four other Israeli gay couples, who had all previously married in Canada, petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court, along with flagship NIF grantee Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), to have their overseas weddings registered by the Israeli government. The seven justices ruled six to one in favor of the homosexual couples.
The decision, which according to Ozeri and Lord’s lawyer Onn Anthony Stock, is the first of its kind anywhere in the world, reinforces several recently achieved legal precedents. The earlier decisions, also obtained with assistance from the NIF family of organizations, allow gay couples to adopt children and to receive a deceased partner’s pension and inherit his/her property.
Relaxing in their Tel Aviv apartment, Lord and Ozeri have an intimate sense of affection and friendship, which would be the envy of many more conventionally married couples.
"Aside from the social and economic benefits," remarks Lord, "this ruling is not so important for us as a couple. We have been together for a long time and have a very stable relationship. We know we are married and don’t really need official pieces of paper."
"But I badly wanted this for the confused teenagers that I counsel," adds Lord, who volunteers for veteran NIF grantee Israel Association for LGBTs. "They come in off the street to talk and break down in tears when they tell me they are gay. They think it means that they have been condemned to a life of sordid sex and meaningless relationships. But I can prove to them from my own experience that it is not true that you can’t build a normal, loving relationship. This ruling reinforces that sense of normality."
However, Ozeri stresses that the social and economic implications of the ruling are important. "I worked for Bank Hapoalim for 21 years and have a pension from them," he says. "If anything happens to me that pension rightly belongs to Russell. I don’t want to have to rely on legal precedents. Now it’s official, we are a married couple. And there are irritating economic implications to being gay. When we bought this apartment together, we paid double the purchase tax because we were considered two individuals rather than a couple."
Both Ozeri and Lord are 49. They met in January 1982 at a party in Tel Aviv when Lord, born and raised in New York City, was on vacation in Israel. Ozeri comes from a Yemenite family and grew up in Eilat. Although they come from different backgrounds and birthplaces, they shared a relatively "painless" coming out. Both came to terms with their sexual orientation as teenagers, told their families when they were in their early 20’s and have since enjoyed their support.
"My family has accepted Russell as part of the family," emphasizes Ozeri, "and Russell’s family sees me as part of their family."
Neither Ozeri nor Lord can remember a single unpleasant incident in Israel regarding the fact that they are gay and they praise not only the progressive, liberal values of the legal system but also the human warmth of Israelis. "This morning when we went to register at the Ministry of Interior," recalls Ozeri, "two Arab couples came over to us and congratulated us. Then an ultra-orthodox Jew shook our hands and said mazal tov. The neighbors and people we were with have been calling in to congratulate us. It was the same when we came back from Canada last year after getting married in Toronto."
Within this context, the violent ultra-orthodox rioting against the planned Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem earlier this month especially angered Lord. "I think the opposition backfired," explains Lord. "Because of the protests, I made a point of attending the Gay Rally in Jerusalem. There were hundreds of people there like me who only came as a point of principle. I sat next to a woman who told me she had no particular interest in gay rights but that she was there because if they were allowed to ban gays then they would soon ban her because her sleeves are too short." "This Supreme Court ruling makes me proud to be an Israeli and a Jew," says Lord
Lord, who works as a marketing and tourism consultant for a large Israeli company says that last week’s Supreme Court ruling makes him proud to be an Israeli and a Jew. "It gives me great satisfaction to know that I have played a role in shaping a more liberal, humane and progressive Israeli society," he says.