Gay Israel News & Reports 2008-09

1 Lesbian and gay couples are adopting in Israel. 1/08

2 Israel’s other war 1/08

3 LGBT Palestinian organisation formed in Jerusalem 2/08

3a Drag against the occupation 3/08

4 Gay adoption ruling may set precedent in Israel 3/08

5 Out’ publishes guide to picking up Israeli men 3/08

6 Lesbian mums fight for legal rights in Israel 4/08

7 Out of the closet, into the center: Tel Aviv’s first gay community center 6/08

8 Brief altercations at Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv 6/08

9 Thousands attend 10th annual Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv 6/08

10 Rise in gay tourism stirs unease in Israel So-called ‘pink dollars’ 8/08

11 Jerusalem’s gay oasis under threat from financial crisis 10/08

12 20,000 gay families raising kids here 1/09

13 Gay man sworn in at Knesset 2/09

14 Court permits Israeli gay couple to adopt son 3/09

15 Homosexual Palestinians in Israel – Unspeakable love 4/09

16 James Kirchick’s "Queers for Palestine?" 5/09

17 Gay pride around the world 6/09

18 Unlikely Ally for Residents of West Bank 6/09

19 Israeli PM and President condemn murder of gay youths 8/09

20 Tel Aviv gay killings: Police consider ‘personal motive’ 8/09

21 Gay shooting inflames debate in Israel 8/09

22 Netanyahu visits Tel Aviv gay center 8/09

23 Tel Aviv gay solidarity event draws 70,000: organisers 8/09

24 Jewish Palestinian Gay Activist Spared Jail for Resistance Work 8/09

25 Israeli ambassador first to be accompanied by gay spouse 11/09

25 Israeli ambassador first to be accompanied by gay spouse 11/09

26 Gay youth counselor killed in attack to be commended 12/09

January 05, 2008 – Proud Parenting

Lesbian and gay couples are adopting in Israel. Solid partnerships and responsible parenting are boosting Israeli family life.

by Community Editor
According to Israel’s daily newspaper – Haaretz – Welfare Minister Yitzhak Herzog (pictured) will promote a policy that would allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt children. Until now, those in same-sex relationships have been allowed to adopt their partner’s biological children, or to have an adoption registered in Israel after it was performed abroad. Couples have not been allowed to adopt a child who was not born to one of the two partners.

Israeli rabbi and attorney Gilad Kariv agrees with the decision, and says: "Removing the obstacles faced by same-sex couples who wish to adopt an Israeli child constitutes a clear and unequivocal expression of the State’s recognition that the child’s good would not be undermined because he or she have same-sex parents, and that this good hinges on, first and foremost, the quality of family life and the relationships within it."

According to sources in the Welfare Ministry, four same-sex couples have asked to adopt a child over the past several months. Several other couples have applied to have one partner adopt the other’s children.

January 10, 2008 – Middle East Times

Israel’s other war

by Mel Frykberg
"We’re fighting for equality," said Hagai El-Ad. "But if we do it at the price of collaborating with an oppressive and discriminatory establishment, then we’re no better than the millions of other Israelis who’ve already chosen to become hardened and indifferent to the suffering of the other, of the enemy."

One would automatically assume that statement refers to the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation; it is not. Hagai El-Ad is a Jewish gay rights activist. In a region where homosexuality is regarded as something abhorrent and punishable by law it is ironic that many gay Palestinians fled both Gaza and the West Bank and, with the help of gay Israelis, were able to find refuge in the state which epitomizes their enemy, Israel, and among a community vilified by their own communities back home. "In the eyes of the Jewish majority it is sufficient for the other person to be an Arab to justify almost any humiliation and violence against them. Even if the other is an Israeli citizen, even if she is a pregnant woman, even if it’s a child on her way to school," stated El-Ad.

In a nutshell this sums up the empathy with which the suffering of Palestinians in general, and especially those in the Palestinian gay and lesbian community, is regarded by the majority of Israel’s homosexual community. "We started a project to help protect and promote the rights of gay Palestinians who had fled the West Bank and the Arab villages in Israel," Nimrod Baron from Jerusalem’s Open House, a gay refuge center, told the Middle East Times. "And so successful was the program that gay Israeli Arabs and Palestinians have now started their own program aimed at empowering gay members of their community," added Baron.

Although some Palestinian gays and lesbians are hiding out illegally in Israel in order to escape violence, intolerance and being disowned by their families, significant expatriate groups exist in Netanya and Tel Aviv where many live with their Israeli partners. The police have in many cases turned a blind eye due to the intervention of organizations like Agudah, a gay activist organization in Tel Aviv.

Another problem facing gay Palestinians is that many in their community equate homosexuality with collaboration with Israel. While there is some basis to this, due to Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet, recruiting some individuals in return for money or resident permits, this does not apply to all the Palestinians who fled their homes. However, those even suspected of collaborating with Israel face either death or imprisonment. Several years ago Tayseer, a young man from Gaza received a summons from the Palestinian police after he had engaged in homosexual acts. When his family found out, he was severely beaten and warned by his father that the next time he would be strangled. When he refused to implicate others during his interrogation, he was tortured and imprisoned where he suffered constant taunts from interrogators and other prisoners. After his release a few months later, Tayseer crossed into Israel, something which is now virtually impossible due to the strict security procedures. He now lives illegally in an Arab Israeli village and works in a restaurant.

For Jewish gays and lesbians the fight for equality has been a hard one, but one that has borne fruit, despite prejudices from orthodox Jewish groups. Sometimes the prejudice leads to violence. At the 2005’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras three marchers were stabbed by a Jewish fanatic. Israel’s small but powerful orthodox community, including political parliamentarian groups, has been able to enforce its religious agenda on the Israeli public to a significant degree despite the outrage of the majority of Israelis who are secular. Public transport is prohibited on Shabbat, or Sabbath, the Jewish holiday which starts at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday, selling pork is illegal, and there is no such thing as civil marriages between Jew and non-Jew. These rules, however, are bent in the less religious climate of Israeli cities such as Tel Aviv. And due to the determination and political activism of Israel’s gay community, Israel today has some of the most progressive gay rights in the world.

"The gay rights lobby here fought their successful campaign, both through the media and on the political level," Baron said.

Lesbians can officially adopt children born to their partners by artificial insemination from an anonymous sperm donor. Same sex marriages performed outside of Israel are also recognized. Foreign partners of gays receive residency permits while spousal benefits and pensions are extended to the partners of homosexual employees. Israel’s attorney general has also granted legal recognition to same-sex couples in financial and other business matters. Israel’s Defense Forces allow gays to serve openly and even in special units. In 1992 legislation was introduced to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But El-Ad concluded that however rosy the current scenario is, the rights of Israeli and Palestinian gays are inextricably intertwined.

"The struggle for our rights is worthless if it’s indifferent to what’s happening to [gays in the occupied Palestinian territories] a kilometer from here."

5th February 2008 – PinkNews

LGBT Palestinian organisation formed in Jerusalem

by staff writer
A long-established group for gay, lesbian, trans and bisexual Palestinians in Jerusalem has decided to become independent. Al-Qaws began life six years ago as a project of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (JOH). In branching out on its own it becomes the first-ever official Palestinian gay organisation. In November Al-Qaws received nonprofit organisation status and was renamed Al-Qaws – for Sexual & Gender Diversity in the Palestinian Society.

"During the six years of its existence, Al-Qaws has undergone an all-embracing organisational process of development," said a spokesperson. What started as a local professional-oriented project has grown into a national community and grassroots organisation, with activist leadership. This major development has been made possible thanks to the leadership group’s determined investment, the deep commitment of Al-Qaws activists and the autonomous space provided to Al-Qaws within the JOH, enabling Al-Qaws to address the needs of the Palestinian LGBTQ community."

Haneen Maikey, Al-Qaws director, said: "This change is incredibly exciting. This new phase presents new opportunities with promises of growth through self-definition for Palestinian LGBTQs."

The JOH will continue to host Al-Qaws in its new community centre in downtown Jerusalem. The two organisations said they are committed to exploring wider fields of cooperation in the future towards the advancement of common goals. Noa Sattath, JOH executive director, said: "The Palestinian LGBTQ community is fortunate to have such strong and capable leaders. We look forward to working together with the leadership of Al-Qaws for a better future for all our community members."

March 2, 2008 –

Drag against the occupation

by Tamara Traubmann
A full dance floor in a South Tel Aviv nightclub, replete with its share of drag queens. Ostensibly another Friday night of gay men having a good time. But this is not an ordinary party of this sort. Palestinians and Jews are dancing together, the music is Arabic, several of the drag performances have a political content, and even the time of night – from the early evening until before midnight – is designed so the celebrants can get home at a reasonable hour without being asked too many questions.
The party is taking place as part of the activities of a new association, Al-Qaws [The Rainbow] for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society. The dance parties, which take place once every two months, characterize the organization’s nature: Political activism can be more than just demonstrations and serious slogans. You can surely dance while fighting for civil rights.

The association’s members, who come from all over the country, began operating in 2000 in the context of the Open House gay organization in Jerusalem. But lately they realized they had to take another step to meet the special needs of the Arab gay and lesbian community in Israel, and to preserve their uniqueness and political character. Al-Qaws registered as an independent association, and on March 1 will celebrate the launch of its operations.

The association’s director, 29-year-old Haneen Maikey from Jerusalem, says the parties are only one aspect of the group’s activities, which include local support groups. "We also provide a personal response to people who come for advice, information and a sympathetic ear, and we organize events as well," she says.

‘Badge of shame’
Al-Qaws is the first Palestinian-Israeli organization to cater to the entire gay and lesbian Palestinian population. About five years ago the organization Aswat (Voices) was founded for lesbian, bisexual and transsexual Palestinian women. The organization’s members are involved in a variety of feminist and political activities. Last year, when they wanted to hold a large convention in Haifa, the Islamic Movement published a condemnation of the convention and called it a "a badge of shame." An Arab gay man or lesbian in Israel is doubly excluded: In Arab society they suffer from oppression and discrimination because of their sexual orientation, while in Jewish society they suffer from discrimination for nationalist reasons. Maikey says the Arab gay or lesbian in Israel "remains a stranger even in an accepting environment." Usually their relationships are conducted in Hebrew in an environment different from their original cultural milieu. "So even if it’s an accepting environment, you remain a stranger, a kind of ‘guest of the culture,’ and you have to behave according to rules determined by the other," she says.

According to Maikey, "At the parties many people say that it’s important to them that there is finally a framework where you can speak Arabic without fear." At the parties there is a sense of freedom and liberation, one reason being the variety that is celebrated. "There’s everything here, and everything is accepted," says one of the female participants. "Arabs, Jews, men, women, lesbians, gays, trans, straights." Another reason for the feeling of liberation is that the parties are a meeting place for many identities, mainly gender and national identities. "I see the parties as both a path and a goal," says Samira, an activist at Al-Qaws and Aswat. "As far as I’m concerned the parties are part of a way to build a community. It’s a social meeting place and the beginning of creating a community. It’s also a place where you don’t apologize for anything about your identity. In the nightclubs and at other parties we are asked to leave the Palestinian aspect outside the club before we enter. Here it’s a place that doesn’t ask for that. On the contrary, it nurtures our identity."

Songs of love, and struggle
On the stage the performances are beginning. A drag queen sings a love song by the singer Fairuz, another begins a belly dance. A black drag queen with a dark blond wig, wearing a tunic sewn from a keffiyeh, gets onstage. "I don’t care what they say," she sings to her beloved. "Every day I’ll be what I want to be." Later the installation artist R. appears. He is active in the Al-Qaws Tel Aviv-Jaffa branch and organizes exhibitions, but he prefers not to be identified by name. R.’s installations are political and very moving. One can often see people in the audience crying. To the strains of songs of struggle, for the most part by classic singers such as Fairuz or Majida al Romi, he appears as a character he created: "Arus Falastin," The Bride of Palestine. "It reminds people of who they really are," he says. The conflict and distress supposedly subside at the party, mitigated by drag. R. says that "in recent years, all the drag queens I have encountered came to entertain, to make people laugh, to amuse. Although all drag is political in itself, when it is only amusing it becomes boring in a certain sense. Ordinary people – that doesn’t excite anyone any longer."

At the last party R. appeared as a "drag king" in a new character he created: Ahmed Basha. His face adorned with bristles, a keffiyeh on his shoulders, he wears a black shirt with the inscription "Free Palestine." The song he sings, by Lebanese musician Marcel Khalifa, was written during the first Lebanon war. It tells about a little boy who is playing in the yard, looking for string to fly a kite. Suddenly he sees a plane in the sky, "a kite that doesn’t need string," he calls to his friends. The plane then bombs the house and turns everything into fire.

Can we expect a Palestinian gay pride march as well? Is coming out of the closet one of the goals of the association?
Samira says that coming out of the closet is not a sacred goal. She was born and grew up in the North and currently lives with her Jewish partner in Tel Aviv. Her immediate family knows about her sexual identity, but the extended family doesn’t know (which is why she prefers to be interviewed without her last name). "For me the issue of visibility is important," she says. But she and Maikey stress that visibility does not necessarily require a gay pride march, but can be achieved by "creating a discourse in society."

18th March 2008 – PinkNews

Gay adoption ruling may set precedent in Israel

by Adam Lake
An Israeli court has ruled that a gay couple can both register to be their adopted son’s father. The landmark decision, made by the Family Court in Tel Aviv, may well set a precedent for other gay couples. Giora Shavit and his long-time partner Avi Shadiv have now registered to jointly adopt their five-year-old son. The four year old boy, who comes from Georgia, has no registered biological parents. Under Israeli law only one of the men could adopt the child, however, for more than a year the couple have fought to both be recognised as

Mr Shavit told The Jerusalem Post : "I wanted to become a father to him in every sense of the word. It was important that we work on establishing our family and setting up a system of guardianship for our son." The couple were represented by gay and lesbian rights advocate Ira Hadar. Hadar is well known in Israel for successfully challenging the Supreme Court in the case of a lesbian couple who wanted to adopt each other’s biological children, two years ago. Commenting on the case he said:

"Today, we are seeing more alternative families becoming accepted by society and it just proves that everyone has the right to raise children within the lifestyle they choose. Hopefully this will pave the way for all gay and lesbian couples to sign onto the waiting lists to adopt children." The case was a first in Israel and there has been a surge of gay and lesbian couples who wish to adopt. However, other couples may have a more difficult time trying to get joint adoption status when their biological parents are known.

"Our son has no registered biological parents so it was just an issue of adding another adopted father," said Shadiv. The ruling has attracted some opposition from Ultra-Orthodox groups such as the Shas party. The political party, who won 12 seats in the 2006 election, previously claimed that such decisions "damage the Jewish image of the State of Israel." Shas have caused much controversy over the years their Ultra Conservative beliefs.

In 2001 the spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, provoked outrage with a sermon calling for the annihilation of Arabs, referring to them as vipers, he later refered to the Israeli gay and lesbian community as, "filth." More recently Shlomo Benizri, a Shas MP, claimed that recent earthquakes that have hit Israel are a consequence of gay rights laws. In December the High Court of Justice upheld its decision in 2000 that Interior Ministry officials could not refuse to register the lesbian partner of a woman with a child as the child’s adopting parent. An American-Israeli lesbian couple who weren’t registered as dual mothers of their son despite a Court’s ruling, won their case before Israel’s Supreme Court.

March 2008 –

Out’ publishes guide to picking up Israeli men

Calling all Israeli men, don’t be alarmed if approached by an American tourist asking smilingly in accented Hebrew, ‘Is that a mezuzah in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?’

By Itamar Eichner
Out Magazine, one of the leading homosexual magazines in the US, has recently published a guide to picking up men in Israel, with an added bonus of recommended pickup lines such as: "Would you like to spin my dreidel?"; "Is that a mezuzah in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"; "Do you sleep on your stomach? No? Can I?"; and other gems.
‘Out’ has anointed Tel Aviv this month’s recommended tourist attraction, labeling it the capital of Bauhaus, commerce, culinary culture, and, of course, men. Tel Aviv’s coffee houses are described as packed full of people advertising the gay slogan, ‘We’re here and we’re queer’.

You might not expect to hear such slogans, typical of Sydney and San Francisco, in the conservative country of Israel. It wasn’t always this way, but since its first broadcasted gay kiss Israel has come a long way. Now, a decade later, there are plenty of hangouts for gay men, according to ‘Out’. The magazine published a list of them as part of the guide. And ‘Out’ is not alone. During the last few weeks the Foreign Ministry has been reporting an international trend taken on by foreign magazines who praise the Israeli way of life, complimenting its food, tourist attractions, nightlife, culture, and architecture. Lifestyle magazines in the UK, France, and the US plan on publishing over 30 articles on the subject in the near future.

Israeli consul for Media and Public Affairs in New York, David Saranga, initiated some of these articles. "If the first wave has given our audience a peek at Israel," he said, "the second wave, which will reach its summit during Israel’s 60 year independence celebration, will capture their attention in a way they will not be able to ignore."

8th April 2008 – PinkNews

Lesbian mums fight for legal rights in Israel

by Adam Lake
A Israeli lesbian couple have filed a suit in a Tel Aviv district court for the right to both be named the biological parents of their newborn baby boy. The case is exceptional as it is the first time that both partners in a homosexual relationship have had an active and biological role in the birth of the child. After the woman who bore the child experienced fertility problems the couple decided that the other partner would conceive the child through artificial insemination.

The foetus was transferred to the woman’s partner, meaning that although the first woman is the child’s genetic and partly biological mother, only her partner will officially be declared a biological parent. As a result of a previous High Court of Justice decision, the state of Israel accepts that both parents in a lesbian or homosexual relationship may be recognised as parents of the child. The couple have filed the suit because they believe that the child would experience unnecessary distress if both parents were not officially biological parents. Israel is opposed to allowing both partners in a lesbian couple to be registered as the biological mothers.

"Before approving the request for artificial insemination, the Health Ministry made it clear that the woman who donated the egg would not be considered the child’s mother and that if she wanted to be, she would have to adopt him," State’s representative Attorney Orly Manzur told the court, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The case continues.

04 June 2008 –

Out of the closet, into the center: Tel Aviv’s first gay community center opens its doors

by Ofri Ilani, Haaretz, Correspondent
A new mezuzah was affixed to the entrance to a building on the campus of the "Dov Hoz" school in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, one covered in the rainbow flag of the Gay Pride movement.
After decades as the home of the "Workers’ children’s school" serving the children of the Labor Party elite, and later a local high school, the building is now home to Tel Aviv’s first-ever Gay and Lesbian community center.

"The image of God can be seen in every person, and therefore, this building is not only a community center, but a house of God" said Rabbi David Lazar at a ceremony to bless the affixing of the building’s mezuzah. The initiative to build the center was started five years ago by leaders of the local Gay, Lesbian, Transsexual, and Bisexual community, and its opening represents the first time the city has officially sanctioned such a project. The center has already hosted events for a teen gay pride group, as well as one to prepare new Israel Defense Forces recruits for their enlistment.

The center is also planning on hosting ballet recitals and events for elderly members of the community. Itai Pinkus, Tel-Aviv City Hall’s advisor for the Gay, Lesbian, Transsexual, and Bisexual community, said the center will hold many events for the elderly, as these members "spent years underground, at a time when they were under risk of serious personal harm if they were to be exposed." The building is also expected to house a child care center, albeit one that is not run by the center.

"The home will serve to reflect the plurastic spirit of Tel Aviv, and the desire to honor and respect all minorities," said Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai at the dedication ceremony. "We see ourselves as a trailblazing society. We decided to found this institution out of the belief that it is necessary," Huldai added, saying the onus is now upon the residents of Tel Aviv and the Gay and Lesbian community to ensure that the building is a success.

June 6, 2008 – The Jerusalem Post

Brief altercations at Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv

by Staff
There were brief altercations Friday between participants in the Tel Aviv Gay Pride parade and a group of right-wing and religious demonstrators. No one was wounded and police were not required to intervene. The demonstrators held signs which read: ‘Animals! You have nothing to be proud of, take your medication.’

Meanwhile, Meretz faction chairperson Zahava Gal-On, who attended the march, slammed Shas and its chairman Eli Yishai, who on Thursday attempted to prevent the parade from going ahead by filing a compliant to police. "Yishai cannot profit politically at the expense of the participants in the Gay Pride parade," said Gal-On, adding that Shas was "trying take us back to the Middle Ages."

07 June 2008 –

Thousands attend 10th annual Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv

by Haaretz Service
Thousands of people attended the tenth annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv Friday, to celebrate the gay community’s struggle for equality and to christen the center for the gay community situated in the city’s Meir park (Gan Meir).
"The center symbolizes an amazing turning point in the history of the gay community, and our activities will now have fertile ground from which to grow and flourish," Army Radio quoted one of the parade participants as saying. The Tel Aviv municipality donated NIS 250,000 for the event, which was scheduled to commence at 12 P.M. at Gan Meir. The parade was then to head out toward Bograshov Street, turning onto Ben Yehuda Steet, then Ben Gurion Boulevard and finally ending at Gordon beach, where a host of musicians such as Ivri Lider, Maya Buskila and Keren Peles were set to perform followed by a party on into the night.

Unlike similar events in the more religious capital, which have sparked bitter right-wing protests and violent demonstrations, the Tel Aviv parade faced little resistance. "The parade here is different from the one in Jerusalem," Army Radio quoted another parade participant. "Here, we celebrate the freedom and rights that we have – it’s a festival, a happening, it’s a joy. In Jerusalem, it’s simply a demonstration for human rights." Several confrontations did take place however. Army Radio reported that a handful of extreme right-wing activists confronted the revelers holding signs reading "Animals – you have nothing to be proud of." Shas Party Chairman Eli Yishai also voiced his objection to the parade in a letter addressed to the prime minister and the police commissioner, saying the parade will include "acts of abomination" and that it should be stopped.

Army Radio also quoted Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On’s response to Yishai’s efforts, saying "their ignorance and dark beliefs take as back to the Middle Ages. It is intolerable that the religious and Haredis tell us what to believe in and how to live. Now they’re trying to forbid the gay community from parading in the streets."

August 13, 2008 –

Rise in gay tourism stirs unease in Israel So-called ‘pink dollars’ are flowing into the economy, but may deter traditional pilgrims.

by Danna Harman, Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
Tel Aviv – There is something incongruous about the stretch of beach just under the Hilton Hotel’s high perch. For there, below the bluff, are two so-called "specialty beaches." The Hassidic beach, surrounded by an eight-foot concrete wall, features a polite sign at its entrance: Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays are women’s bathing days, it announces. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays belong to men. It’s the municipality’s solution to the ultra-orthodox dilemma of how to body surf without breaking the halachic, Jewish law, prohibition on unmarried members of the opposite sex seeing one another in immodest dress.
At the beach directly adjacent to the walled compound, every day is men’s bathing day. This is the unofficial gay beach.

Tel Aviv, with its warm Mediterranean weather, trendy cosmopolitan feel, and lively nightlife, has, over the past few years, become a hot destination for gay travelers. But this is also a country where there is no separation between religion and state, and in which the majority of tourists come here for some form of religious experience – which all leads to a rather ambivalent official attitude toward the phenomenon. According to Thomas Roth, president of Community Marketing Inc., a San Francisco-based gay market research firm, gay travelers make up 10 percent or more of the travel industry, spending tens of billions of dollars yearly. They are a valuable niche market, he points out, with higher than average disposable income, and a typically strong interest in both shopping and culture. While no research has been conducted on gay tourism to Israel specifically, says Mr. Roth, who just returned from his own visit to the country, "…we do know from focus groups and anecdotal conversations with travelers that the destination is growing in appeal."

Shai Doitsh, head of the gay tourism department at Agudah, Israel’s Association of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexuals, and Transgenders, says that thousands of gay tourists – both independent and groups – have come to Israel this year, infusing the economy with millions of so-called "pink dollars." Five years ago, the numbers were in the hundreds. A decade ago there was virtually no market at all, he says. But David Katz, a travel agent with Sar-El Tours in Jerusalem, whose main clients are religious pilgrims, points out that evangelical Christians make up the single largest group of tourists to the country, followed by Jewish interest tourists. According to Ministry of Tourism statistics, some 44 percent of the 2.3 million tourists who came to Israel last year were religious Christians of different denominations. Highlighting "gay tourism," says Mr. Katz, could easily unsettle some of the many visitors coming to experience the "land of the Bible." "Dealing with gay tourism has to be done in an intelligent and sensitive way," says Yaniv Poria, a professor in the department of hotel and tourism management at Ben Gurion University in the Negev region and an expert on the subject. "It is wanted – it’s just tricky. Like so many things in Israel."

Part of Israeli’s appeal to the gay market, says Roth, is the perception that it’s a very liberal, open-minded country. Sodomy was decriminalized by the Supreme Court 20 years ago; there are equal opportunity laws protecting workers against discrimination based on sexual orientation; gays can openly serve in the army, inherit their spouse’s property, and be registered by the government as married. As of this year, gay Israeli couples are also allowed to adopt children. But in contrast, Israel also has a history of intolerance toward the sector. In Jerusalem, the small annual gay pride parade has to be protected by hundreds of police. Last year, the 2,000 marchers in Jerusalem were threatened and stoned by ultra-Orthodox protesters. Also last year, the Tourism Ministry was forced to stop its support for a campaign to promote gay tourism after details were published in the local media. At the time, dozens of religious members of parliament threatened to bring down the government over the campaign, saying such images as one of two young men in skullcaps about to kiss near Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives were offensive.

"This is a delusional campaign for a minority with a normative defect," Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai, from the ultrareligious Shas Party, told reporters. "Those who fail to recognize Jerusalem’s holiness should stay away from it." The government’s solution to such sentiment has led them to take their support for gay tourism into the closet, so to speak. "[Like] other religious countries trying to attract gay tourism, like Spain, the government has turned over marketing to the local level or taken it underground," says Poria. What this means, he explains, is that cities are free to market themselves as they see fit, while the country, officially, continues to market a far more traditional set of attractions. Meanwhile, any official marketing to the gay community is done in a subtle, even unconventional way. "You will not find [Israeli Foreign Minister] Zippi Livni talking about this – but you will see promotional spots for such tourism, supported by the ministry, but not attributed to them, on, say YouTube," says Poria.

October 30, 2008 – PinkNews

Jerusalem’s gay oasis under threat from financial crisis

by Staff Writer,
A community centre for the gay community in Jerusalem is facing closure because of the credit crunch.
A "high percentage" of Jerusalem Open House’s annual budget is built on grants and gifts from abroad. In a letter to supporters JOH said: "we are already feeling the pinch, as the flow of funds slows down. "JOH is the only LGBT organisation in Israel to be so detrimentally affected by this world crisis. Activity has grown over the last years, directly increasing our expenditure. The lack of self-generating income and adequate funding from the Jerusalem municipality has forced us to rely on gifts from abroad, more than other LGBT organisations."

For the past seven years JOH has held Pride events in Jerusalem, in the face of opposition from religious groups. In 2005 a man stabbed three Pride participants and was subsequently sentenced to 12 years in prison. The following year the venue was switched to a sports stadium following violent protests by rightwing opponents who consider the event "a profanity" of the Holy City. Last year about 2,500 gays and activists marched down King David Street despite protests by thousands of people. This year Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a petition to ban Jerusalem Gay Pride parade.

JOH also provides a place for LGBT people of all religions and political views to come together. "Firstly, I would like to remind you of a number of successes, which demonstrate the necessity of the JOH for the city of Jerusalem: diverse cultural and social activities; growing community participation; highly-attended Kabbalot Shabbat; strengthening of the ‘reception’ team; a sane and safe parade; moving of the Open Clinic to the JOH centre and larger numbers of people tested; growing activities for youth and young adults; new programmes and initiatives in the offing," JOH said.

"JOH presently finds itself in a serious cash flow situation, the most serious ramification of which is the delay in paying salaries to our staff. Grants and gifts that were supposed to arrive have not done so on time. Some will still be paid, but regarding others, we are not sure if the donors will be able to hold by their commitment or make their annual donation. The main cause of the present problem is two long-standing annual grants that have not yet been received. We are initiating a series of cuts, some of them quite sweeping: lowering the hours of all staff by an average of 50% and additional reduction in other expenses. At the same time, we will also increase our fundraising efforts in Israel and abroad. I would like to request that you, members of the JOH and the LGBT community in Jerusalem and Israel, as well as all our supporters, take part in ensuring the orderly continuation of activities at the JOH. We do not only need your material help, in funding and operating our various programs, but also your “spiritual” support, by participating in our diverse activities."

25 January 2009 –

20,000 gay families raising kids here

by Ofri Ilani
There are more than 20,000 same-sex couples raising at least one child in Israel, according to New Family, a human rights organization working for legal recognition of equal rights for every type of family.

The Supreme Court set a precedent in 2005 when it ruled that two lesbians could adopt each other’s children and become the children’s joint parents, a decision that followed an eight-year legal struggle. The couple, Tal and Avital Yaros-Hakak, had lived together for 15 years, during which they gave birth to three children with sperm from anonymous donors. The law does not extend to gay couples who raise a child conceived with a surrogate mother.

February 25, 2009 –

Gay man sworn in at Knesset

by 365gay Newscenter Staff
Jerusalem – Israel’s newly elected Knesset members were sworn in on Tuesday – including Nitzan Horowitz, only the second openly-gay lawmaker to enter Israel’s parliament. Horowitz was among 120 MKs sworn in by President Shimon Peres – 30, like Horowitz, are serving their first term. A former television journalist, Horowitz is a member of the left-of-center Meretz Party.
Last week he announced plans to bring in legislation that would allow any two couples to marry or have a civil union.

Currently only a rabbi can perform a marriage in Israel. A bill already before the Knesset would allow civil marriage, but only for opposite-sex couples. Horovitz said his measure would allow both opposite-sex and same-sex couples to have a civil marriage. It’s doubtful Horovitz bill will get far in the Knesset. This month’s election saw large gains by conservatives, including the small-but-powerful religious parties. Nevertheless, Horovitz said he is hopeful of a dialogue in the parliament.

Gays and lesbians in Israel have been steadily gaining civil rights since the government overturned the law against sodomy in 1988. There have been no restrictions on gays serving in the military since 1993. In 2000, the age of consent for gays was lowered to 16, to match the legal age for consensual sex for heterosexuals. Gay couples are given most federal rights in Israel, although gay marriage has been rejected by the courts.

While Tel Aviv is liberal and gays enjoy a vibrant community, in the conservative Jerusalem, the LGBT community is frequently under attack. Authorities and ultra-Orthodox religious leaders have constantly attempted to bar gay pride from Jerusalem. Last year’s gay pride parade went ahead despite attempts by the city to get an injunction blocking it In 2007, moments before the gay pride march was to begin in Jerusalem, police arrested a man carrying a homemade bomb. The 2006 pride march was cancelled following a week of rioting in Jerusalem by the ultra-Orthodox haredi sect. In 2005 the parade also was marred by violence. More than a than a dozen protestors were arrested and three people were stabbed.

March 11, 2009 – PinkNews

Court permits Israeli gay couple to adopt son

by Staff Writer,
A Tel Aviv family court has ruled that a gay couple can adopt the son they took in 14 years ago. Uzi Even and Amit Kama, who married in 1994 in Canada, are the first same-sex male couple in the country whose right of adoption has been legally acknowledged. Their son, Yossi Even-Kama, 30, moved in with them at the age of 16, after his family could not accept he was gay.
The couple began the formal adoption process because Tel Aviv University refused to grant Even-Kama a tuition discount reserved for families of faculty members. Even is a chemistry professor at the university.

"Our struggles are political but also very real," said Kama, an expert in communication theory. "I began my first struggle when I felt I was paying fines I didn’t deserve, and in Yossi’s case we’re talking about tens of thousands of shekels. But the true meaning of this is that the state and its authorities recognize us as a family," he said. "This legitimises our daily lives, our feelings, our emotions." Dori Spivak, the deputy director of the law clinic programs at Tel Aviv University, who helped Even and Kama in their cause, said it was "the first case ever where the right of adoption was acknowledged not only for two women, but also for two men."

April 2006 –

Homosexual Palestinians in Israel – Unspeakable love

by Brian Whitaker,The Jewish Quarterly
Homosexuality in the Middle East and the gay Palestinians who have taken refuge in Israel

Open homosexuality is a social and religious taboo almost everywhere in the Middle East. In Iran and most Arab countries, same-sex acts are illegal and punishable by imprisonment, flogging or sometimes death. Even in countries where homosexuality is not specifically outlawed, such as Egypt, generalized laws against “immorality” are used to target gay men. The notable exception is Israel, where same-sex relations between men became legal in 1988. Four years after de-criminalizing homosexuality, Israel went a step further and is now the only country in the Middle East that outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The law has certainly made its impact felt, requiring the military to treat gay and lesbian members of the armed forces equally and, in one celebrated case, forcing El Al to provide a free ticket for the partner of a gay flight attendant, as for the partners of heterosexuals. And in 1998 Israel’s tolerance of sexual diversity attracted worldwide attention when the transgender Dana International won the Eurovision Song Contest.

In an essay on Israel’s gay history, Lee Walzer, author of Between Sodom and Eden (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), explains: “The reasons for gay and lesbian political success during this period from 1988 through the mid-1990s were many. Chief among them was the fact that gay activists pursued a very mainstream strategy, seeking to convince the wider public that gay Israelis were good patriotic citizens who just happened to be attracted to the same sex. This strategy, pursued until recently, 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 enabled Israelis to pat themselves on the back for being open-minded, even as Israeli society wrestled less successfully with other social inequalities.”

Across the Green Line in the West Bank and Gaza, however, the picture is very different. The penalty for same-sex acts under Palestinian law is not entirely clear, though in practice this is less significant than the extra-judicial punishments reportedly meted out by the authorities and the threats that gay men face from relatives intent on preserving family “honour”. Writing in the New Republic (19 August 2002), Yossi Halevi described the case of “Tayseer”, a Palestinian from Gaza, who was 18 when an elder brother caught him in bed with a boyfriend. His family beat him and his father threatened to strangle him if it ever happened again. A few months later, a young man Tayseer had never met invited him into an orange grove for sex:

“The next day he received a police summons. At the station Tayseer was told that his sex partner was in fact a police agent whose job is to ferret out homosexuals. If Tayseer wanted to avoid prison, he too would have to become an undercover sex agent, luring gays into orchards and turning them over to the police. Tayseer refused to implicate others. He was arrested and hung by his arms from the ceiling. A high-ranking officer he didn’t know arranged for his release and then demanded sex as payback. Tayseer fled Gaza to Tulkarem on the West Bank, but there too he was eventually arrested. He was forced to stand in sewage water up to his neck, his head covered by a sack filled with faeces, and then he was thrown into a dark cell infested with insects and other creatures he could feel but not see… During one interrogation, police stripped him and forced him to sit on a Coke bottle.”

The key ingredients of Tayseer’s story are repeated in other published accounts given by gay fugitives from the West Bank and Gaza: a violent family reaction, entrapment and blackmail by the police coupled with degrading improvised punishments. The hostility of families is a predictable response from those who regard homosexuality as a betrayal of “traditional” Arab-Islamic values. This attitude is by no means unique to the Palestinians, but while it may be possible in some Arab countries to take refuge in the anonymity of big cities, the Palestinian territories are small, with mainly close-knit communities where it is difficult to hide.

Religious condemnation of homosexuality found in Judaism, Christianity and Islam derive mainly from the biblical story of Lot and the destruction of Sodom, which also figures in the Qur’an. In recent decades progressive Jews and Christians have increasingly questioned traditional interpretations of scripture and moved towards acceptance of homosexuality, at least within stable, loving relationships. As for Islam, however, the trend has generally been in the opposite direction – partly because of the weakness of secular or progressive religious currents but mainly because political conditions have led to a growth of religiosity and recourse to supposedly traditional Arab-Islamic values.

Historically at least, the view that homosexual acts should be punished by execution is a feature of all three monotheistic religions. Britain applied the death penalty for sodomy over several centuries – originally on the basis of ecclesiastical law – up until 1861. Today, Islamic law is widely interpreted in the same way by many prominent and widely respected scholars, including Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the leading Shi’a cleric in Iraq, whose fatwa advocating death for liwat (sodomy) was posted in Arabic on his website. A number of gay men have been systematically murdered in Iraq recently and campaigners say the fatwa provided religious sanction and encouragement for the killings.

Four years ago in Israel, a prominent rabbi, David Batzri, also advocated the death penalty. “Homosexuals and lesbians are not only a sickness,” he told Maariv newspaper in February 2002. Last year, during the gay pride parade in Jerusalem, a religious extremist attacked three marchers with a knife and reportedly told the police he had come “to kill in the name of God”. Of course, there are important differences between Israel and the Arab countries – particularly in the reaction to such views. Rabbi Batzri’s remarks caused public outrage and the man who attacked the Jerusalem parade was promptly arrested. In Israel, religious figures and their legal opinions carry far less weight, and the rights of gay people are protected by the state.

For gay Palestinians who feel persecuted at home, the obvious escape route is to Israel, but because of the political conflict this can be fraught with difficulties. As far as most Palestinians are concerned, fleeing into Israel is a betrayal of their cause, while gay men who remain in the Palestinian territories also come under suspicion.

“In the West Bank and Gaza, it is common knowledge that if you are homosexual you are necessarily a collaborator with Israel,” said Shaul Gonen, of the Israeli Society for the Protection of Personal Rights (“ ‘Death Threat’ to Palestinian Gays”, BBC, 3 March 2003). Bassim Eid, of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, explained: “In the Arab mindset, a person who has committed a moral offence is often assumed to be guilty of others, and it radiates out to the family and community. As homosexuality is seen as a crime against nature, it is not hard to link it to collaboration – a crime against nation” (“Palestinian Gay Runaways Survive on Israeli Streets”, Reuters, 17 September 2003).

Regarding gay men as politically treacherous is not unique to the Israeli-Palestinian situation. There are parallels here with Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, when gay men engaged in secret government work were treated as a particular security risk. In the popular imagination, this may well have been seen as an intrinsic part of their psychological make-up, although the fact that their sexual activities were illegal did expose them to the possibility of blackmail by Soviet agents.

Equating homosexuality with collaboration makes it extremely dangerous for Palestinians to return home after fleeing to Israel. One man told Halevi in the New Republic of a friend in the Palestinian police who ran away to Tel Aviv but later went back to Nablus, where he was arrested and accused of being a collaborator: “They put him in a pit. It was the fast of Ramadan, and they decided to make him fast the whole month but without any break at night. They denied him food and water until he died in that hole.”

There is little doubt that some – though by no means all – gay Palestinians are forced by their precarious existence to work for Israeli intelligence in exchange for money or administrative favours such as the right of residence; both Eid and Gonen said they knew of several. Others, meanwhile, are coerced into undercover work for the Palestinian authorities; one 19-year-old runaway stated in an interview with Israeli television that he had been pressurized by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade to become a suicide bomber in order to “purge his moral guilt”, though he had refused (“Palestinian Gay Runaways”, Reuters, 17 September 2003).

Estimates of the number of gay Palestinians who have quietly – and usually illegally – taken refuge in Israel range from 300 to 600. Although Israel is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and recognizes same-sex partnerships for immigration purposes, it does not welcome gay Palestinians – mainly because of security fears. This often leaves them trapped in an administrative no-man’s-land with little hope of finding a proper job and constantly at risk of being arrested and deported. Some try to disguise themselves by wearing fake military dog-tags and even Star of David medallions.

“The Palestinians say if you are gay, you must be a collaborator, while the Israelis treat you as a security threat,” Gonen told a news programme (“Palestinian Gays Flee to Israel”, BBC, 22 October 2003). But even if they are neither collaborators nor a security threat, they can easily become targets for exploitation by Israeli men. “They work as prostitutes, selling their bodies unwillingly because they have to survive,” Gonen said: “Sometimes the Israeli secret police try to recruit them, sometimes the Palestinian police try to recruit them. In the end they find themselves falling between all chairs. Nobody wants to help them, everybody wants to use them.”

May 2009 –

James Kirchick’s "Queers for Palestine?"

On January 28, little more than a week after Israel concluded its brutal military campaign against the Gaza Strip, James Kirchick published the latest installment in his growing corpus of articles about tolerant, gay-friendly Israel and homophobic, "Islamofascist" Palestine. Although Kirchick has published essentially the same article under different titles — "Palestine and Gay Rights" and "Palestinian Anti-Gay Atrocities Need Attention" — and although he regurgitates the same flimsy, unsupported arguments in all of these articles, we do not write to question his intellectual prowess or journalistic qualifications. In fact, Kirchick’s diatribe against Palestinians and the "radical" gay activists who support them would not warrant a response if it did not, in our view, represent something much bigger and more dangerous.

We are two people who come from very different places with very different histories: one of us, Haneen Maikey, is a Palestinian citizen of Israel and the director of Al-Qaws ("the rainbow" in Arabic) for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society (, and the other, Jason Ritchie, is an American anthropologist whose research focuses on sexuality and nationalism in Israel-Palestine. Despite our differences, however, we share an interest in what is said about lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer Palestinians, and we are equally disturbed each time we read another article by another American, European, or Israeli writer who pretends to offer "the truth" about gay Palestinians by telling simplistic, one-dimensional stories that are based more on racist stereotypes about Palestinians than the reality of life in Israel-Palestine.

We would like to start, then, by clearing up a few misconceptions about Israel, Palestine, and queers. As in most societies, homophobia is a problem in Palestinian society, but there is not some organized, widespread campaign of violence against gay and lesbian Palestinians. Of course, there are occasional acts of violence, much like there are occasional acts of violence against queers in Western societies; and the social norms and mores about gender and sexuality that give rise to such violence create a climate in which many queer Palestinians cannot live their lives openly and honestly. At the same time, however, there are many openly gay and lesbian Palestinians, and they are not, as James Kirchick implies, an insignificant group of a "few lucky Palestinians" who are seeking asylum in Israel: they are actively engaged in changing the status quo in Palestinian society by promoting respect for sexual and gender diversity.

Those of us who know a thing or two about Israel know that seeking asylum in Israel is not an option anyway for Palestinians, who are specifically ineligible for asylum under Israeli law. It may be true, as Kirchick proudly states, that Israel "legally enshrines the rights of gay people," but it enshrines only some rights for some gay people. Restricted freedom of movement, routine human rights abuses, detentions, checkpoints, and bombing campaigns are among the legally enshrined "rights" of Palestinians, whatever their sexual orientation, in the West Bank and Gaza. And while Palestinians in Israel and Jerusalem are granted some legal rights and their living conditions are significantly better than in the Palestinian Territories, Palestinian citizens of Israel, whatever their sexual orientation, are second-class citizens, who face legally sanctioned and everyday discrimination and racism in all areas of life, from courtrooms and boardrooms to hospitals and universities, from the streets of small villages to the streets of Jerusalem, from the floor of the Knesset to the floors of Tel Aviv’s hippest, gayest clubs.

Israel is not, in other words, "an oasis of liberal tolerance," and Palestine is not "a reactionary religious backwater." Kirchick’s article is built on the weak foundation of these two myths, and we could excuse such shortcomings as poor journalism — it’s based, after all, not on research or conversations with actual gay Palestinians, but the author’s assumptions and a seven-year-old article written by another journalist — if it did not entail such serious dangers.

In the first place, if we are to believe Kirchick, there are no queer Palestinians: they’ve all been murdered by Palestinian "Islamofascists," and the "lucky few" who survived have fled to gay-friendly Israel. In fact, there is a vibrant, organized community of queer Palestinians who are working hard to create a just, democratic Palestinian society that respects the dignity of every person. Perhaps Kirchick would prefer to pretend that they don’t exist because, in his view, they might as well not exist. According to Kirchick, "Palestinian oppression of homosexuality isn’t merely a matter of state policy, it’s one firmly rooted in Palestinian society, where hatred of gays surpasses even that of Jews." If it were true — and we know it not to be true — that all Palestinians hate gays (and Jews), and their hatred has nothing to do with laws or stereotypes or other things in the world that can be changed, then there would be no point fighting for change. The truth is that homophobia is a problem among Palestinians, but racist arguments like Kirchick’s that explain it as a sort of sickness that’s "firmly rooted" in Palestinian society do nothing to help those who are trying hard to change it.

Fortunately, though, the important work of queer Palestinian activists will continue, regardless of what James Kirchick does or does not write about them. What we find more problematic is that he fabricates a story of oppressed gay Palestinians, about whom he actually knows very little, to make an argument in support of a brutal military campaign that claimed the lives of more than 1,200 Palestinians, most of them innocent civilians. Kirchick, and anyone else, is free to blindly support Israeli repression of Palestinians, but we would like to suggest that he not do it by recycling unsubstantiated stories and false assumptions about queer Palestinians, whose suffering, like that of most Palestinians, stems more from Israeli policies than it does from "Palestinian homophobia."

In the end, Kirchick’s real point of contention seems to be with those gay and lesbian activists in the West who were brave enough to oppose the Israeli war on Gaza. Their opposition, he argues, was akin to "stand[ing] alongside the enthusiasts of religious fascism." Although many of us have begun the slow process of recovering from eight years of George Bush and his "us versus them" mentality, Kirchick apparently did not get the memo. He views the world — and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular — in simplistic, black-and-white terms: good Israelis/Americans/Europeans versus bad Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims. “But gays will never,” to borrow Kirchick’s own words, “get anywhere as long as they view the world in this constrictive and counterproductive way.”

Where exactly "they" want to go is an open question, and Kirchick proves his own point that not all gays will care about the rights and dignity of other people. But to those of us who do care, we would like to issue a call for a kind of queer solidarity based not on racist assumptions about “others” who look different, speak different languages, or live in different places but on a willingness to listen to each other and stand together against violence and repression, even when some among us try to justify it in our name. That, we think, is what’s truly "obscene," and the only just antidote to it is a queer movement made up — not, as Kirchick argues, of "oppressed" victims who identify with each other’s suffering — but of courageous queer activists, thinkers, artists, writers, and everyday people who identify with the common dream of a better world for us all.

Haneen Maikey, Jason Ritchie
Jerusalem; Champaign, Ill.

June 19, 2009 –

Gay pride around the world

by Leslie Davis – Atlanta Lesbian Relationship Examiner
Gay Pride is taking places in cities around the world this month. I’ve been browsing the festivities, appreciating the festivities vicariously through friends and strangers. China’s first gay pride festival closed in Shanghai on Sunday after a week marred by authorities’ last-minute cancellation of events. Events for Shanghai Pride were organized at private venues, without a public parade, to avoid attracting unwanted official attention. Evidently their effort to ‘fly beneath the radar’ was less than successful. Shanghai authorities prevented a film screening and a play and police patrolled Saturday’s major events. The festival had to take place discreetly in order to go ahead.

From GlobalPost: Shanghai, like many Chinese cities, has a vast and vibrant gay scene that operates with little interference from Beijing. The government’s hands-off approach is sometimes called the Triple No Policy: no approval, no disapproval, no promotion. It is the Chinese equivalent of "don’t ask don’t tell," an opaque tactic that critics claim leaves both activists and ordinary people caught in an invisible web of rules that dictate when and how you can and, or can’t, be gay. China’s gay community is estimated to be around 30 million, though it is difficult to accurately approximate in a country where homosexuality is heavily stigmatized. China de-criminalized gay sex in 1997, though homosexual behavior was officially viewed as a mental disorder until 2001. Some government-funded medical institutes are still trying to find a "cure" for homosexuality. None of the mainstream media carried any reporting about Shanghai Pride on Sunday.

In Croatia, approximately 300 people gathered last Saturday at the 8th Gay Pride parade in Zagreb, uniting under the slogan "Destroy fascism, support gay activism." The event was marred by verbal clashes between gay and anti-gay groups. A group of around 200 nationalists gathered, shouting insults and carrying slogans such as "Gay parade, shame of our city," "Birth rate is dropping" and "Gays today, pedophiles tomorrow." Police intervened, arresting four people. The annual parades are commonly marred by violence due to the perception that sexual minorities are “sick" and "deviant."

In Israel more than 20,000 gays, lesbians and onlookers turned out for Tel Aviv’s 11th annual Gay Pride Parade on Friday, June 12. A small group of right-wing and religious protesters demonstrated, holding up banners reading: "God hates debauchery." Interior Minister Eli Yishai had tried to convince Prime Minister Netanyahu to cancel the parade. Five gay couples wed Friday in a ceremonial marriage on Tel Aviv beach, at the culmination of the city’s 11th annual Gay Pride Parade. The ceremony, held at sundown, after an all day disco on the beach, began with a serenade by gay pop star Ivri Lider. Three female and two male couples exchanged vows.

Jerusalem will host its own pride parade on June 25th, an event that has previously sparked fierce opposition from Jewish and Muslim clerics and politicians.

Never at the forefront of gay tourism, Switzerland hosted Euro-Pride throughout May, 2009 in Zurich. The parade was held on the final weekend, June 6, 2009. Organizers say 50,000 people attended. Though Zurich may not leap to mind as a primary destination for gay travelers, Switzerland has one of the best developed gay infrastructures in the world, with many places to socialize regardless of how much or how little clothing you choose to wear. The home page of the Zurich police department says that their central preoccupation is “Sicherheit als Grundlage einer toleranten und freien Gesellschaft.” Translation: Safety as the foundation of a tolerant and free society. I wish more local police departments would put this mission on their home page.

Last weekend São Paulo, Brazil hosted the largest gay pride in the world, with over 3 million people in attendance. Dancing and waving rainbow flags, people jammed Sao Paulo’s main boulevards for the 13th annual gay pride parade. Marchers carried signs condemning homophobia and demanding equal rights. Sunday’s carnival-like parade drew gay men, lesbians, cross-dressers and many heterosexual couples with their children for a massive march down skyscraper-lined Avenida Paulista to the beat of loud music blasting from 20 sound trucks. There were two attacks reported. A man was attacked by a group of men on the street in a gay neighborhood and beaten. He suffered brain injuries and remains in a coma. In a separate incident, 21 people were injured when a home-made bomb exploded was detonated in the crowd.

In New York City, Pride celebrations center around five events held during the fourth week of June, from June 20-28, 2009: The Rally, PRIDEfest, The March, the Dance on the Pier, and Rapture on the River. The events all take place in the West Village, very close to the city’s other gay-popular neighborhoods like Chelsea and the East Village. This year is expected to be impressive since it is the 40th anniversary of Stonewall.

There’s have been many festivals held worldwide this far and there are many more to come throughout the rest of the summer. I look forward to enjoying the revelry from my living room.

June 27, 2009 – The New York Times

Unlikely Ally for Residents of West Bank

by Ethan Bronner
Safa, West Bank — Ezra Nawi was in his element. Behind the wheel of his well-worn jeep one recent Saturday morning, working two cellphones in Arabic as he bounded through the terraced hills and hardscrabble villages near Hebron, he was greeted warmly by Palestinians near and far.
Watching him call for an ambulance for a resident and check on the progress of a Palestinian school being built without an Israeli permit, you might have thought him a clan chief. Then noticing the two Israeli Army jeeps trailing him, you might have pegged him as an Israeli occupation official handling Palestinian matters.

But Mr. Nawi is neither. It is perhaps best to think of him as the Robin Hood of the South Hebron hills, an Israeli Jew helping poor locals who love him, and thwarting settlers and soldiers who view him with contempt. Those army jeeps were not watching over him. They were stalking him. Since the Israeli left lost so much popular appeal after the violent Palestinian uprising of 2000 and the Hamas electoral victory three years ago, its activists tend to be a rarefied bunch — professors of Latin or Sanskrit, and translators of medieval poetry. Mr. Nawi, however, is a plumber. And unlike the intellectuals of European origin with whom he spends most Saturdays, he is from an Iraqi Jewish family.

“My mother gave birth to me in Jerusalem when she was 14,” said Mr. Nawi, who is 57 and one of five siblings. “So my grandmother raised me. And she spoke to me in Arabic.” His family has trouble understanding his priorities. His mother says she thinks he is wasting his time. And many Israelis, when told of his work, wonder why he is not helping his own. Mr. Nawi has an answer. “I don’t consider my work political,” he said between phone calls as he drove. “I don’t have a solution to this dispute. I just know that what is going on here is wrong. This is not about ideology. It is about decency.”

For his activist colleagues, Mr. Nawi’s instinctual connection to the Palestinians is valuable.
“Ezra knows Palestinians better than any of us,” said Amiel Vardi, a professor who works closely with him. “This is not only because of the language, but because he gains their confidence the minute he starts talking with them. He has all sorts of intuitions as to what should be done, what are the internal relations — things we hardly ever notice.”

The difficulties of Palestinian life in the West Bank have been well documented: Israeli military checkpoints, a rising separation barrier and Israeli settlers. But in this area, the problems are more acute. The Palestinians, many of them Bedouin, are exceptionally poor, and the land they bought decades ago is under threat by a group of unusually aggressive local settlers. The settlers have been filmed beating up Palestinians. Settlers have been killed by Palestinians. But Mr. Nawi said that the law inevitably sided with the Israelis, and that occupation meant there could be no equity.

“The settlers keep the Palestinian farmers from their land by harassing them, and then after several years they say the land has not been farmed so by law it is no longer theirs,” Mr. Nawi said. “We are only here to stop that from happening.”

That is not the view of the settlers.
“He is a troublemaker,” asserted Yehoshua Mor-Yosef, a spokesman for Israeli settler communities in the area. “It’s true that from time to time there is a problem of some settlers coming out of their settlements to cause problems. But people like Nawi don’t want a solution. Their whole aim is to cause trouble.”

True or not, Mr. Nawi is now in trouble. Having spent several short stints in jail for his activism over the years, he now faces the prospect of a long one. He is due to be sentenced Wednesday for assaulting an Israeli policeman two years ago during a confrontation over an attempt to demolish Palestinians’ shacks on disputed land on the West Bank. The policeman said Mr. Nawi struck him during that encounter. Mr. Nawi denied it, but in March a judge convicted him. What is left of the Israeli left is rallying around him, arguing that Mr. Nawi is a known pacifist who would not have raised his hand against anyone.

“Since I’ve known the man for decades and seen him in action in many extreme situations, I’m certain that the charge is untrue,” David Shulman, a Hebrew University professor and peace activist, wrote in the newspaper Haaretz. Of Mr. Nawi, he added, “He is a man committed, in every fiber of his being, to nonviolent protest against the inequities of the occupation.” Mr. Nawi attributes his activism to two things: as a teenager, his family lived next door to the leader of Israel’s Communist Party, Reuven Kaminer, who influenced him. And he is gay. “Being gay has made me understand what it is like to be a despised minority,” Mr. Nawi said.

Several years ago, he had a relationship with a Palestinian from the West Bank and ended up being convicted on charges of allowing his companion to live illegally in Israel. His companion was jailed for months. Mr. Nawi said harassment against him had come in many forms. Settlers shout vicious antigay epithets. His plumbing business has been audited, and he was handed a huge tax bill that he said he did not deserve. He is certain that his phone calls are monitored. And those army jeeps are never far behind.

He is not optimistic about his coming sentencing, although he is planning an appeal. And he says the Israeli news media have lost interest in the work he and his fellow activists do. But he does not stop. “I’m here to change reality,” he said. “The only Israelis these people know are settlers and soldiers. Through me they know a different Israeli. And I’ll keep coming until I know that the farmers here can work their fields.”

August 2, 2009 – PinkNews

Israeli PM and President condemn murder of gay youths in Tel Aviv massacre

by Staff Writer,
As two of the young LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) Israelis murdered in a shooting at a Tel Aviv gay centre have been named, the country’s President and Prime Minister have condemned the atrocity.
Liz Trubeshi, aged just16, of Holon and 26-year-old Nir Kat of Givatayim were named as the two young people murdered by a masked gun man at a meeting for young gay people within Tel Aviv’s vibrant gay district.

Israeli President Shimon Peres said: "the shocking murder carried out in Tel Aviv yesterday against youths and young people is a murder which a civilized and enlightened nation cannot accept. Murder and hatred are the two most serious crimes in society. The police must exert great efforts in order to catch the despicable murderer, and the entire nation must unite in condemning this abominable act."

Israeli media report that a masked gun man dressed head to toe in black entered the venue, underneath Cafe Noir in Tel Aviv, 28 Nachmani Street at the junction with Ahad Ha’am Street. He shot at least 14 people, spraying the interior of the club with automatic rifle fire and reportedly attempted to enter another venue. Media report that the venue was the scene of a “blood bath."

Eyal Amit of the gay organisation holding the event told Israeli website Ynet: “For 15 years this place has served as a club belonging to the union for private rights. Today a teen meeting was taking place. At some point someone walked in and began firing left and right." Speaking ahead of this morning’s cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "I spoke to the internal security minister this morning and asked him to act so that the murderer faces trial and so that the full force of the law is used against him."

"I send my condolences to the families of the victims and wish the wounded a speedy recovery. I would like to take this opportunity to say to all of Israel’s citizens: We are a democratic country, a country of tolerance, a law-abiding state, and we will honour every person regardless of his or her beliefs." Tzipi Livni, the leader of Israeli opposition party Kadima said: "Hatred exists, and we need to deal with it. This difficult event must be a wake-up call for the society to shake off its prejudices, to accept and recognize the right of every person to a safe and dignified life."

Openly gay Israeli MP Nitzan Horowitz said it was "without a doubt the biggest ever attack on the Israeli gay community, we are all in shock." In the early hours of this morning thousands of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) Israelis have held an impromptu march through the streets of Tel Aviv following the shooting. Gay bars and clubs were shut as a precaution for the rest of the night. Police continue to hunt the gun man. Homosexuality is legal in Israel and Tel Aviv is know for its vibrant gay nightlife.

August 3, 2009 – PinkNews

Tel Aviv gay killings: Police consider ‘personal motive’

by Staff Writer,
Police sources have reportedly said they are considering that the murderer of two gay people in a Tel Aviv gay support group for young people may have had a personal motive for the attack.
A further 15 people were injured on Saturday night when a gunman opened fire on the venue, which was holding a meeting for LGBT teenagers.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, a source said that police are considering that a personal feud may have been the motive, along with homophobia. The source also said police do have a lead but added that the investigation is "still at an early stage". They said: "This tip has to be examined very carefully. We are still at an early stage in the investigation, and it’s too soon to say if this supposition is going to materialise."

Meanwhile, a "senior Tel Aviv police source" criticised the reactions of the LGBT community, saying it had been too quick to blame homophobia. They said: "They were too quick with the rallies and the slogans. It’s not at all clear – the motive for the attack may have been personal, rather than a general targeting of the community."

Those killed were Nir Katz, 26, a youth counsellor, and Liz Troubishi, 17. Eyewitnesses described the scene like a "slaughterhouse", while Israeli media reported that the incident took place during a meeting for LGBT teenagers. Many of those present at the venue were not yet out to their families. According to reports, a masked gunman dressed head to toe in black entered the venue, underneath Cafe Noir in Nachmani Street. He sprayed the interior of the venue with automatic rifle fire and reportedly attempted to enter another venue.

3 August 2009 – The Guardian

Gay shooting inflames debate in Israel

Daphna Baram,
Condemnations of a deadly shooting in a refuge for young gay people in Tel Aviv have been followed by accusations
The shooting at the gay youth club Bar-Noar in Tel Aviv, which resulted in the tragic death of 26-year-old Nir Katz and 16-year-old Liz Tarboushi, and the injury of 13 others, is sending political shockwaves across Israel. "This is our Stonewall," said activists in Israel’s gay community this weekend, referring to the defining moment for the gay community in the US, back in 1969.

While everybody involved in gay events always anticipates violence in the religious and conservative Jerusalem – and particularly in the Jerusalem gay pride parade which has become a centre of controversy in recent years – the gay community sees Tel Aviv as its safe haven. No matter how segregated, old fashioned, grumpy and troubled the rest of Israel gets, Tel Aviv keeps shining as a liberated autonomous jewel, the iconic big city into which anybody can integrate, or at least be tolerated. Its proud gay community, which has turned Tel Aviv into a tourist attraction for many Europeans, is also part of what makes some Israelis hate the "bubble", as the city is often referred to.

Nobody knows yet the identity of the masked character, dressed in black, who ventured into the bubble and shot the young people at the gay youth club on Saturday night. But as one of the commentators on the subject noted, a hate crime is defined by its victims, not its perpetrators. This much was understood by everybody. Even the community’s most bitter enemies, the orthodox Shas party, ultra-orthodox MK Yaakov Litzman of Yahadut Hatora (United Torah Judaism) party and others were quick to condemn the murder in no uncertain terms. "The Tel Aviv branch of Shas is shocked and pained and it condemns the murderous crime against the gay community," said Shahar Bakshi, a spokesperson for Shas. Litzman said he strongly condemned the killing and that the murderer should be caught and prosecuted "like any other murderer". The prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu; the president, Shimon Peres; the leader of the Labour party, Ehud Barak; and the leader of the opposition, Tzipi Livni, all voiced their condemnations and condolences, and spoke of the importance of equality, freedom and tolerance.

Those prompt responses say a lot about the influence the gay community in Israel has gained in recent years. The arrival of the first openly gay MK, Nitzan Horovitz (Meretz), in parliament after the last general election; the gay parade in Tel Aviv, which attracts national and international attention; and the struggle to keep a gay parade in Jerusalem have added many friends, and many foes, to the activist movement. The fact that the daughter of the previous prime minister, Ehud Olmert, Dana, is openly gay, has drawn some further attention to the community.

However, there are other reasons for the wall-to-wall condemnations. Many of the speakers would like some of their own past statements to be forgotten, and want to pre-empt accusations in case a member of their own community is implicated in the crime. Shas leader Eli Yishay carries quite an unimpressive can of worms with him in this respect. He has referred to gay people as "sick" and "perverse" and dubbed the Pride parade "the filth parade". Other members of his party have repeated his words at every opportunity. Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, a prominent and influential figure among religious settlers, has said "there is no such thing as gay and religious. This is a crime which is punished by death according to the Torah."

In Israeli political culture, and especially in the context of political violence, a "condemnation" is often a prelude for an attack on the victims, and on those in their community for "making political capital" out of the tragic event. Such voices are already heard in the discourse that followed the weekend’s events.

The news websites are, as ever, full of mixed comments that mark the extremes of the debate. Some commentators, while paying tribute to polite condemnations, accuse the gay community of being "provocative", and bringing harm upon itself. Others point an accusatory finger at the orthodox religious community. Many mention that only a few days ago the Jewish people commemorated the fall of the second Temple (70 AD), which according to tradition was destroyed due to "causeless hatred". Sadly, many interpret this as referring only to hatred "among Jews" and voice shock and surprise that a "Jew would kill another Jew". Others mention the pink triangle that gay prisoners in Nazi concentration camps were forced to wear. Biblical and holocaustic allusions often mark efforts to construct a rite of passage into Israeli society.

And in the middle of all this havoc, the youth of Bar-Noar club remember their dead friends and tend to the injured. Their grief makes it very understandable why this little basement flat meant so much to them.

"The stairs that lead to this basement are the longest ones in the world because they lead to the greatest possible mental change," said one of them. "I hope young people won’t be afraid to descend this staircase in the future."

The place was a refuge to Israeli youngsters of many different backgrounds, secular and religious, rich and poor, and in recent years many of its visitors have been from the Russian immigrant community – many of them well aware that a secular society is not, in itself, a guarantee for tolerance. "My parents only found out I was gay when they were called to come and see me in hospital," said one of the youths injured in the incident. "I’m not quite sure which bit startled them more."

August 06, 2009 – ynet news

Netanyahu visits Tel Aviv gay center

by Avi Cohen, Israel News
Prime Minister visits site of Saturday’s deadly attack, speaks with representatives of Israel’s gay community. Members present Netanyahu with letter describing ‘daily verbal, physical violence’, say incitement comes from Knesset members, ministers as well.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday visited the Tel Aviv gay youth center which was the site of the deadly shooting attack last Saturday, in which 26-year-old Nir Katz and 17-year-old Liz Trubeshi were killed. Ten others were injured. Netanyahu heard from representatives of the community accusations of incitement from ministers and MKs from within his government and he expressed his support of the community.

Head of Israel’s youth Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Association, Yaniv Weizman said at the end of the meeting, "Things have changed. The prime minister has expressed his support. The prime minister’s message is very clear, a message of support of the community.

"We expect a ministerial committee, full equal rights for the community, and that our relationships are not outlawed. Another thing is education, education, education, curbing homophobia, and the third thing is the whole matter of incitement. It can’t be that within the Netanyahu government, there are ministers and Knesset members that speak out against the community. We have asked the prime minister to label this incident as a terror attack. It was a very positive meeting, the prime minister expressed his full support."

During the visit, representatives of the gay and lesbian community presented a letter to the PM saying, "We, the members of the gay and lesbian community experience verbal and physical violence every single day within the family, in schools and in workplaces. "Severe incitement is voiced from many sources, including Knesset members and ministers in your government. (The shooting attack) is the most serious incident the gay community has experienced since the establishment of the State. The day after this horrendous murder is not the same as the days before. Woe to us if the blood of those killed an injured was spilled in vain."

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen and Tel Aviv district commander, Major-General Shahar Ayalon accompanied the PM on his visit. The police commission said after the meeting, "We must be patient and should not be hasty. This is one of the most serious incidents of the past 30 years, since I have been on the force.

"The prime minister’s visit here will illustrate the importance of the matter. Again, we must take care not to label groups, I ask all of you to be patient. This incident has been made a national priority." Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said, "This city has done so much to ensure that every person feels safe in it… I hope the police get to the bottom of this and find the killer."

The visit was held under tight security, and police have closed off a number of roads in the area and have banned journalists from attending. The deadly attack continues to make waves around the world, and on Wednesday a vigil was held for the victims in Boston by local Jewish organizations.

Also Wednesday, some 1,500 people demonstrated in Berlin, Germany, in support of the Israeli GLBT community. Meanwhile, police continue in their efforts to locate the murderer, and have written in online gay community forums asking the public for any piece of relevant information to help in their investigation.

August 9, 2009 – AFP

Tel Aviv gay solidarity event draws 70,000: organisers

Tel Aviv (AFP) – More than 70,000 people thronged Tel Aviv on Saturday evening for an event to express solidarity with the homosexual community after a deadly attack on a gay club a week ago, organisers said. President Shimon Peres was among speakers at the meeting on Yitzhak Rabin Square outside the city hall.

"The shots which struck this proud community affected us all as human beings, as Jews and as Israelis. The man who targeted the two victims targeted all of us," Peres said. Two people died when a masked, black-clad gunman opened fire on the group of young gays and lesbians at the entrance to the community centre in the heart of Israel’s commercial capital late on Saturday August 1.

"Everyone has the right to be different and proud. Noone has the right to interfere in other people’s lives so long as everyone respects law and order," Peres said. "I came to share your tears after the death of two young innocents. Be strong and courageous," he said.

There was a strong police presence following threats made over the Internet or by telephone. Police said an ultra-Orthodox soldier suspected of being behind some of the threats has been arrested in Jerusalem. Investigators, who are still looking for the gunmen, are working on the theory that the attack was personal vengeance rather than being motivated by anti-homosexual views.

An opinion poll published on Thursday said almost half the Israeli population considers homosexuals to be deviants. Forty-six percent of the 498 people interviewed answered yes to the question "do you see homosexuality as a perversion?" and 42 percent said no, the Haaretz newspaper said.

August 17, 2009 – From: Peter Tatchell

Jewish Palestinian Gay Activist Ezra Nawi Spared Jail for Resistance Work

20,000 people sign petition, urging "don’t jail Ezra"; Prosecution to seek lesser sentence on 21 September

Jerusalem Magistrate Judge Eilata Ziskind has announced that a final decision on sentencing Palestinian human rights defender Ezra Nawi – an openly gay Israeli Jew – will now take place on 21 September. "At yesterday’s court hearing, the judge was swamped by character witnesses, letters and an online petition with 20,000 signatures from the UK, US and all over the world, urging the court to not jail Ezra," reports human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

"The online petition – was organised and coordinated by the Jewish Voices for Peace campaign group.
Ezra faces imprisonment over an alleged riot during his attempts to stop the demolition of Palestinian homes by the Israeli army and over an alleged assault on a police officer during his arrest – charges that Ezra, a well known pacifist, strongly denies.
Among the witnesses who testified in court yesterday on Ezra’s behalf were Yehudit Karp, a former deputy attorney-general of Israel, and Hebrew University professors Galit Hazan-Rokem and David Shulman.

"Several of the witnesses explained to the court that Ezra’s actions in trying to stop Israel’s bulldozing of Palestinian homes had to be understood in the context of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, aggressive Israeli settlers trying to force the Palestinians off their land, and the extreme poverty of the displaced Palestinian families. In an apparent response to the global outpouring of support for Ezra Nawi, the prosecution has indicated that it is now not asking for the maximum sentence of 18 months to two years imprisonment; although it remains insistent that he should still serve a custodial sentence.

"Ezra has become a legendary figure among the Palestinians in South Hebron, left-wing and pro-peace Israeli activists, LGBT campaigners and international opponents of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Being an out gay man is mostly easy in London or New York. But in the Middle East, it takes real guts, especially when there are fundamentalists on both sides who want to kill gay people.

"By supporting the human rights of the Palestinian people as an out gay man, Ezra is probably doing more than anyone else to undermine the homophobia that undoubtedly exists in sections of Palestinian society. His acceptance by growing numbers of Palestinians illustrates that homophobia can be overcome, even in very traditional communities. It refutes the common stereotype that all Arabs and Muslims are anti-gay.

"Ezra’s exemplary life shows the possibility of unity, solidarity and respect between gays and straights and between Palestinians and Israelis. It suggests that prejudice and division can be conquered; that a kinder, gentler, fairer future can be won for all the people of the Middle East," said Mr Tatchell.

"Being gay has made me understand what it is like to be a despised minority," explained Ezra.

Speaking of the harsh anti-Palestinian policies of the Israeli authorities, he laments:

"They can steal their land, demolish their homes, steal their water, imprison them for no reason and at times even kill them. I’m here to change reality. The only Israelis these people know are settlers and soldiers. Through me they know a different Israeli. And I’ll keep coming until I know that the farmers here can work their fields," he said.

"Several years ago, Ezra had a relationship with a gay Palestinian refugee, Fuad Mussa. Fuad fled the West Bank, fearing ‘honour killing’ because of his homosexuality. Ezra was convicted on charges of allowing his partner to live illegally in Israel. Fuad was jailed by the Israelis," added Mr Tatchell.

"Because of Ezra’s human rights work, Israeli settlers, police and soldiers have subjected him to a torrent of homophobic abuse."

"They did not hesitate to out me as a gay man; indeed, they spread rumours among the Palestinians with whom I work that I have AIDS," reported Ezra. You can watch a film of the protest that led to Ezra’s arrest and charges. Broadcast on Israel’s Channel 1, it shows only passive resistance.

It is not too late to help Ezra Nawi. He will not now be sentenced until 21 September. Between now and then we want to get even more signatures for the online petition. Please email your friends and ask them to take the following action Sign the petition against Ezra being jailed.

November 27, 2009 – PinkNews

Israeli ambassador first to be accompanied by gay spouse

by Staff Writer,
A Liverpool-born man has become the first gay spouse of an Israeli ambassador. Yitzhak Yanouka, known as Izzy, will soon be moving to Angola to become the next Israeli ambassador in Luanda and will be taking his partner Mikie Goldstein, 44, with him. The couple met in Jerusalem in 1994 and were married in the city a year later. Although the marriage is not legally recognised, Goldstein said that as they have been together for more than two years, they are recognised as common law spouses under Israeli law.

Four current Israeli ambassadors are gay, but Yanouka is the first to be officially accompanied by his partner. Goldstein told the Jewish Chronicle: “I feel I am pushing out new boundaries for the gay community, and I will have a chance to do other things. I will also be able to continue my fundraising activities for the Masorti movement and Jerusalem Open House. He added: “Israel’s foreign ministry has been a world leader in its attitudes to gay rights. The UK foreign ministry has also been very progressive although the US State Department has only moved forward since the appointment of Hillary Clinton.

"Generally the world’s diplomatic community has many openly gay people and attending parties on the international circuit is no problem. I have always been fully accepted as Izzy’s spouse. It probably bothers some of the conservative Muslim countries but then they don’t speak to Israelis anyway.” Goldstein will be entitled to all legal and economic rights due to heterosexual spouses of foreign ministry staff.

November 27, 2009 – PinkNews

Israeli ambassador first to be accompanied by gay spouse

by Staff Writer,
A Liverpool-born man has become the first gay spouse of an Israeli ambassador. Yitzhak Yanouka, known as Izzy, will soon be moving to Angola to become the next Israeli ambassador in Luanda and will be taking his partner Mikie Goldstein, 44, with him. The couple met in Jerusalem in 1994 and were married in the city a year later. Although the marriage is not legally recognised, Goldstein said that as they have been together for more than two years, they are recognised as common law spouses under Israeli law.

Four current Israeli ambassadors are gay, but Yanouka is the first to be officially accompanied by his partner. Goldstein told the Jewish Chronicle: “I feel I am pushing out new boundaries for the gay community, and I will have a chance to do other things. I will also be able to continue my fundraising activities for the Masorti movement and Jerusalem Open House. He added: “Israel’s foreign ministry has been a world leader in its attitudes to gay rights. The UK foreign ministry has also been very progressive although the US State Department has only moved forward since the appointment of Hillary Clinton.

"Generally the world’s diplomatic community has many openly gay people and attending parties on the international circuit is no problem. I have always been fully accepted as Izzy’s spouse. It probably bothers some of the conservative Muslim countries but then they don’t speak to Israelis anyway.” Goldstein will be entitled to all legal and economic rights due to heterosexual spouses of foreign ministry staff.

December 6,2009 – Israel News

Gay youth counselor killed in attack to be commended
– Nir Katz, who worked at gay community center in Tel Aviv, receives ACRI award together with Yesh Din

by Anat Shalev
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) has awarded Nir Katz, a youth counselor who was killed in an attack on a gay community center in Tel Aviv, a medal of commendation awarded each year to defenders of human rights.
"Nir Katz won the commendation because with his activities at the community center and other activities in which he took part he promoted the understanding of the other," said Nirit Moskowitz of the ACRI. He helped teens who were dealing with their sexual identity at such a vulnerable stage, and also assisted minorities."

Ayala Katz, Nir’s mother, said she was excited about the commendation. "It’s exciting but also sad," she said, adding that he had taken part in other human and animal rights activities. "He was vegan, which represents the defense of the rights of animals as well as the environment, and he would chase down blood donation vehicles in order to change the shameful clause on homosexuality," Katz said, referring to a clause prohibiting paramedics from accepting blood donations from homosexuals.

This year’s commendation will also be awarded to Paul and Ruth Kedar, founders of the Yesh Din organization, which fights against "injustices and violations of human rights in the Palestinian territories." A ceremony honoring recipients of the award will be held this Friday, following a human rights march in Tel Aviv.