Gay Israel News & Reports 2010-11

1 Court: Palestinian persecuted for homosexuality can stay in Israel 1/10

2 Live For Tel Aviv 4/10

3 Eyes Wide Open reveals the homophobia of Orthodox Judaism 5/10

4 Madrid gay pride march bans Israelis over Gaza flotilla raids 6/10

5 Tel Aviv Pride kicks off 6/10

6 Travel: Tel Aviv- bursting with pride 6/10

7 Israel’s gay propaganda war 7/10

7a Germany: Israelis, Iranians march together 7/10

8 One year after gay center attack 7/10

9 Gay Pride March in Jerusalem Angers Orthodox Jews 7/10

10 Arabic website to tackle gay issues 8/10

11 Supreme Court rules Jerusalem must fund gay centre 9/10

12 Israel’s only gay MP speaks out for marriage on visit to London 10/10

13 Mental health among israeli homosexuals 1/11

14 An Unlikely Activist 1/11

15 Israel appoints first out gay judge 2/11

16 A new generation of Israeli queer activists speak out 4/11

17 Religious homosexuals join the march for Gay Pride 6/11

18 Palestinian LGBTs increasingly in conflict w/Israeli Arab LGBTs 6/11

19 4,000 march for gay rights in the capital 7/11

20 Tel Aviv LGBT youth centre faces closure 8/11

21 Areleh Harel: The Orthodox Rabbi Helping Gay Men Marry Lesbians 8/11

22 Israeli Gay Art Visits UK 9/11

10 January 2010 – Haaretz

Court: Palestinian persecuted for homosexuality can stay in Israel

by Tomer Zarchin, Haaretz Correspondent
In an unusual ruling, the High Court of Justice ordered the state late last week to evaluate the degree to which the life of a young Palestinian is at risk, in part because of his sexual orientation. The Palestinian is asking for permission to remain in Israel because he fears for his life if he is expelled to the Palestinian Authority.
Speaking to Haaretz, he said that "in other times, when they brought me to the roadblock the entire village chased me and beat me, and nearly killed me. I prefer to sit in prison than to go back."

The official position of the state, which was also presented to the court, is that the committee on persons at risk operates in accordance with the office coordinating operations in the territories, and is authorized to address requests of Palestinians claiming to be under threat for their collaboration with security forces. On the other hand, according to the state attorney, the committee is not authorized to discuss the cases of those whose behavior is seen by Palestinian society as being "morally degenerate," including prostitutes, criminals and drug addicts.

The Palestinian, in his 20s, maintains that his life is threatened because of his sexual orientation and because he has been marked by Palestinians as having cooperated with Israel.

Former sex worker
A native of Nablus, he fled his home at 12 and came to Israel as a result of violence and abuse at the hands of his father. At one point he worked as a male prostitute in Tel Aviv’s Gan Hahashmal. Six months after living in Israel, he returned to his family in Nablus. In the PA he was arrested by Palestinian intelligence who suspected him of collaborating with Israeli security forces. He says that he was jailed, tortured and abused until he was forced to admit such collaboration.

Following his forced confession he was jailed at a facility near the Muqata’a for what he says was two years, waiting for a death sentence to be carried out for alleged treason. The young Palestinian petitioned the High Court through attorney Yohanna Lerman, a public defender, said that during IDF operations he managed to escape and was asked to identify those who jailed and abused him openly, exposing his own identity. Following his exposure to the Palestinians as appearing to "collaborate" with Israeli forces, he was granted temporary permits to stay in Israel by the Shin Bet. During his stay in Israel the young Palestinian was arrested and jailed for his involvement in acts of violence and theft.

The committee evaluating the degree to which Palestinians are at risk for alleged collaboration with Israel decided in November that the young man was not at risk. The committee also said that he failed to meet his commitment to avoid illegal activities, which in turn threatens public safety. The state argued in response to the High Court petition that many Palestinians who have claimed similar risk to their lives for collaboration are actually threatened because Palestinian society considers their behavior to be "morally degenerate."

"This unfortunate fact cannot impose on the State of Israel the legal responsibility to allow every Palestinian from such groups to live in its territory," the state attorney’s office wrote. The court ruled that there must be an authority capable of taking responsibility on deciding whether a threat exists and what its nature is, in areas that are not necessarily linked with collaboration.

"To date the committee, the state and the court avoided interfering, but now the judges have asked that there be a collective approach that also includes the issue of sexual orientation," Lerman said, pointing out that both local and international law state clearly that someone whose life is at risk cannot be abandoned.

April 2010 – Next Magazine

Live For Tel Aviv

Summertime is right around the corner, and we’ve all got Pride on the mind. As gay men, it’s our duty to unearth the short-shorts on the first warm day of the season and let Manhattan know we’re serious about the next four months. Years ago, the changing weather was our cue to transform the city into a gay playground—but several decades of sticky subway rides have become a sweaty reminder to book a flight and vote ourselves off the island.

We could easily hop on a plane and be in Rio or Barcelona by morning, but gaggles of gays have started packing up and are heading to Tel Aviv—a sister city to New York since the mid-’90s. Capitalizing on new gay interest in the city, legendary porn producer Michael Lucas and nightlife impresario Josh Wood have created travel groups to spread the gay wealth across “the Big Orange.” Touring the scenic landscape, cruising the hottest beaches and partying at some of the sickest clubs, both tours make stops not just in the epicenter of Middle Eastern gay life, but also through the historic haunts of the Old City of Jerusalem. In a country where many view the Middle East as a war-torn religious battleground, why the hell are gay New Yorker’s simply dying to get there?

Although its skyscrapers and mega clubs would argue the fact, Israel is still very much a developing nation. It’s one of the oldest parts of the world, but its vibe is surprisingly unrefined and raw. In a country used to being on the brink of war, the locals live every day knowing it could be their last, and their appreciation for life is the foundation of a unified live-for-today attitude that makes each day less inhibited and more visceral—a sensual and carefree attitude that New York thrives on, but has largely lost.

Think of Tel Aviv as New York’s older gay sibling (despite actually being centuries younger), its most impressive quality being the openly gay atmosphere. Pro-tolerant since its beginnings, Israel began culturally accepting its gay citizens long before the U.S., practicing non-discrimination of consensual gay sex since the ’50s and enacting an extensive list of gay rights beginning in the ’80s, including legally recognizing gay marriage in 2006 . Social acceptance flourishes in the streets of Tel Aviv (though not other parts of the country); it’s not uncommon to see two men holding hands in public, making out in a coffee shop or enjoying a summer “fling” on a soaked beach towel.

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27 May 2010 – Arts Grants Finder

Eyes Wide Open reveals the homophobia of Orthodox Judaism

The important yet depressing Eyes Wide Open is true to life: it shows a Hassidic community that preaches sexual intolerance and a terror of difference

Eyes Wide Open may be sensitively filmed and movingly narrated, but it is also profoundly depressing. Set in a fundamentalist religious community in Jerusalem, it tells the story of two men who fall in love and embark on an illicit affair. Same-sex relationships within any conservative religious community are generally forbidden. Orthodox Judaism, for its part, teaches that men and women should marry young, have lots of babies and live as purely and God-fearingly as possible. This film follows on the heels of Sandi Simcha DuBowski’s fascinating 2001 documentary Trembling Before G-d, which interviews lesbian and gay Orthodox Jews trying to come to terms with their sexuality. The fascination for me was the subjects’ allegiance to their religion rather than their sexuality. Why do they stay wedded to a set of beliefs that interprets their lifestyles as an abomination? What pull does fundamentalist religion have for these people, who, unlike many others, could walk away into the arms of another community?

My partner, Harriet’s brother, Daniel, is a Hassidic Jew living just outside Jerusalem. Two years ago, Harriet and I – out and proud lesbians – attended the arranged marriage of Daniel’s 17-year-old daughter. As I stood talking to Harriet’s parents, the father of the groom approached me, thinking I was Harriet. I braced myself. When Harriet’s father introduced me as his daughter-in-law, the father of the groom blanched and turned away, not out of rudeness or open hostility, but because of his inability to cope with the knowledge of my lesbianism.

The odd thing about the wedding was the sex segregation. Men and women do not socialise together in Hassidic communities, even at weddings – and that includes the bride and groom. There are two head tables, divided by tall screens. At one table sit the bride and her family, at the other the groom and his. The dancing is also separate. Men link arms and gyrate wildly, becoming almost trance-like in their intensity. The women are equally close. And yet same-sex romance is a total no-no.

In Eyes Wide Open, we have our first taste of male bonding when the men strip off to go swimming. They start horsing around, pushing each other underwater, seemingly unconcerned that the Sabbath is fast approaching. This scene, and one in which a male study group begin to sing after swigging down the kosher wine, is a rare moment of light-heartedness in a mire of heavy-duty darkness.

When Ezri first attempts to kiss Aaron, he is rejected. Aaron decides their attraction is a test from God. Orthodox Jews are taught that there are certain acts, such as incest, murder, adultery and homosexuality, that require a response of yehareg ve’al ya’avor (die rather than transgress).

Such self-sacrifice is a main thread in the film. Throughout, the austerity of life within the community is highlighted: the distinct lack of joy; the silence and drabness of surroundings; the women schlepping around their shopping and children; the constant rain. The affair that develops between the two men is the one thing that lifts their lives out of prescribed drudgery into something resembling fun.

Fundamentalist religion is bad for the soul. It preaches intolerance and a terror of difference. In Orthodox Judaism, women are viewed only as breeding machines and wives, and men are mandated to study the Torah and bring spirituality into the home. Before my partner’s niece married, she had never attended a mixed-sex party, been to the cinema, kissed a boy or attended a pop concert.

Eyes Wide Open is an important film in that it continues the discussion begun by Trembling Before G-d – that of the unbearable contradiction between religious orthodoxy and free sexuality. But do not expect to watch this film and feel hopeful or uplifted. Heterosexual men in such communities are afforded power and privilege simply because they are men. Women are fed nonsense about their role as mothers being special and spiritual. Lesbians and gay men have no place or respect in such communities. Eyes Wide Open is too true to life to be anything but depressing.

9 June 2010 – The Guardian

Madrid gay pride march bans Israelis over Gaza flotilla raids
– Organisers say it would be ‘barbaric’ to allow group to take part, but Israelis say Islamists would try and ‘cure’ them all

by Giles Tremlett
A delegation of gay residents of Tel Aviv has been banned from joining a gay pride march in Madrid because authorities in the Israeli city have not condemned the recent attack on the Gaza flotilla.
"After what has happened, and as human rights campaigners, it seemed barbaric to us to have them taking part," explained Antonio Poveda, of Spain’s Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transexuals and Bisexuals. "We don’t just defend out own little patch."

The Tel Aviv group have reacted angrily to the decision, claiming that the Madrid activists were getting their priorities wrong by mixing the nine flotilla deaths with gay pride. "I cannot recall anyone asking the Tel Aviv city hall to either support or condemn in this case. That is not their job. I also don’t recall Madrid’s gay organisations condemning any of the Palestinian terrorist attacks on cafes or buses," Eytan Schwartz, a spokesman for the city told Spain’s El Mundo newspaper. "Don’t they know that Islamist fundamentalists don’t just want to finish off Israel, but that they also believe homosexuals should ‘cure themselves’ or die? It is shameful that they should join with pro-Palestinian and fundamentalist groups which are not exactly tolerant with homosexuality," he said.

"Why do they mix politics with a gay pride procession? We were invited as an apolitical association and we do not represent the government," Mike Hamel, one of the Israeli invitees, said.

Schwartz said that Tel Aviv had also extended an invitation to Madrid to send a gay delegation to the city. Among other things, Tel Aviv had planned to take the Spanish organisers of the march to Gaza so they could witness a place "that is controlled by the fundamentalists of Hamas, who do not respect any human rights and believe that homosexuals should be killed," Schwartz said. "We invited the organisers of the gay pride event in Madrid to join a march this Friday in Tel Aviv, the only place in the Middle East where you can be gay in public," he said. "They would be able to talk to Arab gays who travel here secretly because they would be murdered at home if they revealed their sexuality."

June 11, 2010 – PinkNews

Tel Aviv Pride kicks off

by Benjamin Cohen
Tens of thousands of people are expected to join Tel Aviv Pride today, the Middle East’s only significant gay celebration. It comes just a few days after Israeli activists were banned from Madrid Pride, the largest in Europe, over Israel’s raid on a Gaza aid ship. As of midday, just before the parade was due to start, the usual cacophony of whistles and cheers filled the streets before the marchers set off.
As well as the main body of marchers, two smaller parades are to be held to protest for better representation of marginalised groups in Pride.

The main parade’s route takes revellers past popular gay areas and the city’s religious quarters, starting on Gan Meir Park on King George Street and finishing at Gordon Beach. Near the stage, a giant tube of lubricant encouraged safe sex as rabbis walked by, accentuating Tel Aviv’s reputation as a city of contrasts. Now in its 13th year, the event has had a stable history, unlike Jerusalem Pride which has suffered violence in the past. Over the years, some religious figures have called for Pride in Tel Aviv to be banned or at least curtailed, but these calls have been brushed aside.

Last year, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said his municipality had supported the parade since it began, calling a "happy party that marches the city’s streets proudly each year." The Israeli government has invited journalists from round the world to cover the day, while Jewish gay groups from Britain are also present. Jonathan Sacerdoti, from the Zionist Federation, said: "Israel is a very good place to be gay. It’s accommodating and tolerant, unlike many other places in the Middle East.

There’s equality for people of all sexual orientations. Gays have been serving in the Army since 1993, gay unions from outside are recognised and there is gay adoption, thanks to Supreme Court rulings. It is a very positive place to be." Adam Ezekiel, from the Zionist Jewish Group, added: "This is the only gay parade here. In other places, gay people are being hanged. It’s very important to ensure our rights and opinions are heard."

Sajron Jegerman, a spokesman for Pride, said: "There are so many people here. Today is a day of freedom, a day to be free. He added he had heard of no religious opposition to the festival in its run-up and said everything was going "perfectly ok". He also expressed sadness at the barring of Israeli gay activists from having a float at Madrid Pride. Mr Jegerman said he was "disappointed" at the clash between politics and human rights but added: "It will not stop us co-operating with them in future for gay rights."

City officials had angrily countered Madrid’s perceived snub, with one inviting Madrid officials to visit Tel Aviv Pride in order to meet gay Arabs who could not be open about their sexuality at home. A moment of silence is to be held later in memoriam of those killed at a Tel Aviv gay meeting last July. Two people were killed and a further 15 were injured when a gunman opened fire on the venue.

Benjamin Cohen is the founder and publisher of and technology correspondent for Channel 4 News.

June 22, 2010 – PinkNews

Travel: Tel Aviv- bursting with pride

by Benjamin Cohen
Four nights in Tel Aviv, for the city’s LGBT pride celebrations has changed me in a way no holiday ever has before. My attitudes and perceptions of Israel have changed dramatically and it’s also changed the way that I reconcile my sexuality with my religion.

I’ve only been to Israel twice before: a family holiday when I was ten and when I was 19 as the UK delegate for the World Union of Jewish Students annual conference. Both trips were centred around Jerusalem and both did not live up to my expectations. As a child I was looking for a religious, spiritual experience. While the sights were amazing, visiting the site of the temple, visiting Masada and the Dead Sea, it didn’t really mean anything. The connection I was hoping for didn’t materialise, it didn’t feel how I thought it would. As a 19 year-old, I found Israelis rude, Jerusalem dirty and it was clearly not a place where I would feel comfortable in my sexuality. Tel Aviv was just so different.

Security and safety while in the country is something that has put me off travelling back until now, but the invitation to join the LGBT parade made me reconsider. For all that you might disagree with that Israel does in regards to the peace process, it has an enviable record on gay rights and it’s described by many as an oasis of tolerance and acceptance in a region of virulent homophobia that unfortunately still involves the execution of gays including teenagers.

Israel inherited anti-gay legislation from the British who ruled the country until the foundation of the Jewish state in 1948. Although the law was not actively enforced by the police, it was technically illegal until 1988, although from 1963, the country’s Attorney General declared that laws against homosexuality would officially be disregarded. The country does not have civil marriages (gay or straight) but it does recognise gay marriages or civil partnerships that are held outside of Israel. It is also the only country in the Middle East where it is illegal to discriminate against LGBT people.

My trip began last Wednesday as most visits to Israel do with the rather intense security checks by El Al, the country’s national airline. Who are you visiting? When did you last come to the country? Can you read Hebrew? Who taught you Hebrew? Can you speak Ivrit? The chap seemed to doubt I really was a Jew. As annoying and frustrating as the check was and the queue for El Al to pre-scan your suitcase it did make me feel a lot more confident about the flight, I rather suspect this is the point. I was met at Ben Gurian airport by an official from the Foreign Ministry who made entering the country pretty easy. When I was 19 I was interrogated for about 15 minutes before they finally let me in! If you’re not going with an escort, then do prepare yourself for quite a bit of explaining to the immigration staff.

My first proper day in Israel began with a tour of Tel Aviv and its Arab neighbour Jaffa. The two cities live side by side to the extent that they are in effect the same place, but like much of what I experienced on the trip are in complete contrast to one another. Jaffa with its large mosque has existed from time in memorial with archaeological evidence of habitation from 7500 BC and was the first place that the Jewish immigrations to what was then Palestine saw when they began to move to the region from Europe in 19th century. They wanted to found a new, New York style city which they did in the desert next to Jaffa.

That desert has exploded into becoming one of the most vibrant and diverse cities on earth, starting with the Neve Tzedek district just outside the gates of Jaffa- home to the Suzanne Dellal ballet school and teeming with artists and craftsmen. If you’re a fan of eclectic architecture or architecture in general, then Tel Aviv is a place to visit. The eclectic style rather epitomises the diversity of the city, Arabic, Eastern style arches and windows with Greek, western columns.

It’s also home to one of the largest collection of Bauhaus school buildings in the world. These stunning buildings have now more recently had a new lease of life with regulations forcing property developers to maintain these historic buildings when redeveloping an area so you see cute little eclectic houses sitting as the entrance to imposing, all glass sky scrapers. Many of these are on Rotshschild Boulevard where David Ben-Gurion made the deceleration of the Independence of the State of Israel on 14th May 1948.

A tour Tel Aviv’s gay history in the past began at the building where the Aguda literally the “Association”- the city’s LGBT community organisation was founded, back in the days when homosexuality was technically illegal. The building now unfortunately has a new meaning, it was there, last year that a still unidentified gun man stormed the building during a meeting of young people, killed 2 and injured many more. More positively, the organisation’s new home in the Golder Meir park is the first such venue fully funded by city tax payers in the world. The venue hosts everything from community meetings to mother and baby groups as well as an opening, trendy cafe. But we didn’t eat there, instead opting for Kimmel, a Kosher restaurant that quickly adapted their meals for me, a rather fussy vegan.

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1 July 2010 –

Israel’s gay propaganda war

by marcy
In portraying itself as the only gay-friendly country in a homophobic region the Israeli state reveals its own desperation

original article by Jasbir Puar,
Israel’s recent attack on a flotilla delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza, killing at least nine people, suggests a growing indifference of the Israeli government to global condemnation of its Palestine policies. Yet at the same time Israel appears to be actively concerned to shape itself as a benign and even progressive democracy.
Israel is invested in a large-scale, massively funded Brand Israel campaign, produced by the Israeli foreign ministry, to counter its growing reputation as an imperial aggressor – it was ranked 194 out of 200 nations in a recent East West Communications survey in terms of “positive perception”. Targeting global cities such as New York, Toronto and London, the Brand Israel campaign has used events such as film festivals to promote its image as cultured and modern.

One of the most remarkable features of the Brand Israel campaign is the marketing of a modern Israel as a gay-friendly Israel. Stand With US, a self-declared Zionist organisation, has been quoted in the Jerusalem Post as saying: “We decided to improve Israel’s image through the gay community in Israel.” This “pinkwashing”, as it is now commonly termed in activist circles, has currency beyond Israeli gay groups. Within global gay and lesbian organising circuits, to be gay friendly is to be modern, cosmopolitan, developed, first-world, global north, and, most significantly, democratic. Events such as WorldPride 2006 hosted in Jerusalem and “Out in Israel” recently held in San Francisco highlight Israel as a country committed to democratic ideals of freedom for all, including gays and lesbians. Yet pinkwashing obscures the much more foundational, intractable and, by the terms of the Israeli constitution, necessary lack of freedom that Palestinians have in regards to Israeli state oppression.

Israeli pinkwashing is a potent method through which the terms of Israeli occupation of Palestine are reiterated – Israel is civilised, Palestinians are barbaric, homophobic, uncivilised, suicide-bombing fanatics. It produces Israel as the only gay-friendly country in an otherwise hostile region. This has manifold effects: it denies Israeli homophobic oppression of its own gays and lesbians, of which there is plenty, and it recruits, often unwittingly, gays and lesbians of other countries into a collusion with Israeli violence towards Palestine.

In reproducing orientalist tropes of Palestinian sexual backwardness, it also denies the impact of colonial occupation on the degradation and containment of Palestinian cultural norms and values. Pinkwashing harnesses global gays as a new source of affiliation, recruiting liberal gays into a dirty bargaining of their own safety against the continued oppression of Palestinians, now perforce rebranded as “gay unfriendly”. This strategy then also works to elide the presence of numerous Palestinian gay and lesbian organisations, for example Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (PQBDS).

Pinkwashing is not being produced by Israeli government quarters alone. After the Gaza invasion of January 2008, many educators in the United States signed a letter, addressed to Barack Obama, generated by Teachers Against Occupation condemning the invasion. About six months later, those who signed the petition received a request from one of the signatories to endorse a letter condemning homophobia and oppression against women in Palestine, the Middle East and northern Africa – regions that are not all defined by Islamic religious dominance, but were nonetheless targeted for their adherence to repressive Muslim cultural norms.

This particular response, whereby a stance against Israeli state violence is advocated and sanctioned but accompanied by an additional condemnation of Muslim sexual cultures, has become a standard rhetorical framing produced by liberal supporters of the Palestinian cause. (Note the messaging of OutRage, Britain’s premier queer human rights organisation, at a Free Palestine rally in London, 21 May 2005: “Israel: Stop persecuting Palestine!” “Palestine: Stop persecuting queers!” and also “Stop ‘honour’ killing women and gays in Palestine”.) This framing has the effect, however unintended, of analogising Israeli state oppression of Palestinians to Palestinian oppression of their gays and lesbians, as if the two were equivalent or contiguous. More importantly, it dilutes solidarity with the Palestinian cause by reiterating the terms upon which Israel justifies its violence: Palestinians are too backwards, uncivilised, and unmodern to have their own state, much less treat homosexuals properly. The politics of solidarity with Palestine must not be undermined by such an uncomplicated stance.

All told, however, pinkwashing is a depleted strategy that ultimately discloses the desperation of the Israeli state. Just as Brand Israel’s strategy of recruiting cultural icons to promote Israel’s modernity has faltered in the face of high-profile cancellations of concerts and other events, its efforts are being widely contested, especially at gay and lesbian events and despite the censorship of gay and lesbian groups that actively oppose the Israeli occupation. The recent banning of the phrase “Israeli apartheid” during Pride weekend by Pride Toronto, in response to pressure by the city of Toronto and Israeli lobby groups, effectively barred the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QUAIA). However, on 23 June the ban was rescinded in response to community activism and the 23 Pride award recipients who returned their prizes in protest of the ban.

Frameline’s San Francisco LGBT film festival faced opposition from Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (Quit), among other groups, for accepting Israeli government sponsorship. Last week, after protests by Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, and other anti-Zionist factions, the US Social Forum in Detroit cancelled a workshop slated to be held by Stand With Us on “LGBTQI Liberation in the Middle East”, which sought to promote images of Israel as a gay paradise at the expense of Palestinian liberation. While Israel may blatantly disregard global outrage about its wartime activities, it nonetheless has deep stakes in projecting its image as a liberal society of tolerance, in particular homosexual tolerance. These two tendencies should not be seen as contradictory, rather constitutive of the very mechanisms by which a liberal democracy sanctions its own totalitarian regimes.

July 05, 2010 – YNet News

Germany: Israelis, Iranians march together
Cologne’s gay pride parade brings ‘enemies’ together from Israel, Iran, Turkey

by Yoav Zitun
After the flotilla affair renderred the Israeli GLBT community unwanted in Madrid, a million and a half participants painted the streets of Cologne in the colors of the rainbow flag during a gay pride parade considered one of the largest in Europe. Maybe precisely because of the recent political storm, there was an unexpected spectacle – members of the Iranian community in exile marched side by side with Israelis, openly embracing before the crowds and cameras of the international media which rushed to document the unusual event.

The Israeli delegation arrived by special invitation from the city of Cologne. As they marched carrying Israeli flags alongside the rainbow flags, Iranians joined them carrying Iranian flags from the Shah period, before the Islamic Revolution. One Iranian said he was forced to flee Iran just a month ago after he was identified by the authorities as a gay activist and persecuted.

The Israeli delegation marched at the front of the parade along with Cologne’s mayor Jurgen Rutters. "Even Turks joined us together with representatives from Russia, Ukraine and other states where it is hard to be gay," Adir Steiner said to Ynet. Steiner, who coordinates gay pride events in Tel Aviv, said that "one of them asked me why Israel can’t be a refuge for Iranian gays who are persecuted by the regime. I told him the situation is not black-and-white, and that Iran is a hostile state and it’s forbidden for its citizens to enter Israel."

Yaniv Weizman from Tel Aviv municipality said, "The participation of Tel Aviv representatives is an excellent opportunity to show tens of thousands of participants the beautiful face of Israel, tolerant and open, and Tel Aviv as one of the most fascinating cities in the world today for gay tourists."

26 July 2010 –

One year after gay center attack, Tel Aviv studies Berlin model of tolerance
– A march will be held Saturday night in Tel Aviv to mark the one-year anniversary of a shooting attack in a Tel Aviv gay youth center that left two dead and 13 injured.

by Noah Kosharek
A march will be held Saturday night in Tel Aviv to mark the one-year anniversary of a shooting attack in a Tel Aviv gay youth center that left two dead and 13 injured.
The march will start at the corner of Rothschild and Nahmani streets (near the youth center ) and end at Gan Meir, where a rally will be held with the families of the victims, Nir Katz 26, and Liz Trobishi, 16, the injured and members and counselors of the gay youth center.

Ayala Katz, the mother of Nir Katz, who was a counselor at the center, and chairwoman of Tehila, a support group of parents of members of the gay and transgender community, will speak at the rally. Next month a delegation of youth injured in the shooting will join Tel Aviv municipality officials and possibly Israeli police officials in Berlin to meet with representatives of Maneo, a group that provides support for gay and bisexual men who have been victims of violence, members of the Berlin police, German members of parliament and officials in the Berlin municipality.

The visit is sponsored by Maneo and is taking place in cooperation with the Tel Aviv municipality’s gay center. Adir Steiner, Tel Aviv municipality’s coordinator of activities for the gay community, says the purpose of the trip is to learn the Berlin model for preventing and dealing with anti-gay violence. The Berlin model has been adopted by other European cities, like Barcelona, Steiner told Haaretz. It is based on cooperation between Maneo and the authorities, particularly the police, which has two liaison officers to the gay community to deal with homophobic crimes, he said.

Steiner said if the model is adopted in Israel, Hoshen, a group working to change stereotypes about homosexuality and bisexuality and that trains professionals in matters pertaining to the LGBT community, would take the role of Maneo. "Perhaps if we had started the project a few years ago, we would have documented manifestations of homophobia by the killer, who has not yet been caught, in cooperation with the police, and we might have identified him before the murder. Homophobia, like all hatred, begins small," Steiner said.

The chief of the Berlin police has reportedly invited Israeli police officers to take part in the delegation, particularly the Tel Aviv district youth officer. The Israel Police said they have not yet received an official invitation.

29 July 2010 – VOA News

Gay Pride March in Jerusalem Angers Orthodox Jews

by Robert Berger
Jerusalem – Ultra-Orthodox Jews attend a prayer and protest against a gay pride parade, in the Mea Sharim neighborhood of Jerusalem, 29 Jul 2010 It was homosexual rights vs. religion on Thursday in Jerusalem as some 3,000 Israelis joined a gay pride parade, marching with colorful balloons and dancing in the streets. The march infuriated Orthodox Jews. But Yonatan Gher, one of the parade organizers, says there is no religious monopoly on the Holy City. "The reason the march takes place in Jerusalem is not to upset anyone," said Gher. "We’re here because we’re Jerusalemites. This is our city as much as anybody else’s."

Ultra-Orthodox Jews held counter-demonstrations, carrying signs that read: "Sick perverts, get out of Jerusalem." Many agree with this man who says that the Bible describes homosexuality as an "abomination." "The promotion of a gay lifestyle in the streets of Jerusalem, which is the holiest city for the Jewish people, [and] for the other religions – for Muslims, for Christians – it’s a provocation" said one Orthodox Jewish man.

The march ended up at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, with a memorial service for two Israelis who were killed in a shooting at a gay club in Tel Aviv last year. Gay rights activists like Gher say religious leaders should learn from that event. "When you keep talking about abomination and about the way the Bible looks at the issue of homosexuality, there are individuals out there who could turn those words into violence," said Gher.

To prevent violence, about 1,500 Israeli police officers guarded the Gay Pride Parade, which meant about one police officer for every two participants in the event.

August 18, 2010 – PinkNews

Arabic website to tackle gay issues

by Staff Writer,
An Arabic-language website set up by two Israeli-Arab literary figures will tackle the issue of homosexuality., launched this week, is an online magazine devoted to politics and culture. Writers are expected to include Arab and Palestinian critics and intellectuals.
Its creators, author Ala Hlehel and journalist Anton Shalhat, say it will tackle ‘taboo’ issues in Arabic culture.

According to, Mr Hlehel said: "We’ll post controversial texts that touch on social and cultural sensitivities. "The margins of freedom of the press in Arabic are shrinking under political and social tension from the whole Arab-Islamic scene, with its suffocating effect on free creation."

He added that a section on gay and lesbian issues will be "featured prominently" on the homepage. "It will include texts written by Arab gays and lesbians who, naturally, will publish anonymously," he said. There is another Arabic/English-language website devoted to LGBT issues. Behksoos was set up by lesbian group Meem two years ago.

September 14, 2010 – PinkNews

Supreme Court rules Jerusalem must fund gay centre

by Staff Writer,
The Supreme Court has ruled that Jerusalem must pay for a LGBT community centre. The Open House centre has struggled to gain funding for several years and today, judges said that the city municipality must give it $120,000. A legal battle over the issue has been ongoing for the last seven years. Between 2003 and 2005, the centre received limited funding after appealing to the administrative court. In 2005-2007, the court rejected another appeal for funds, prompting the latest legal action.

In the ruling, the judges wrote that Open House had seen its requests for funding rejected time and again and added that the gay community must be afforded the same support it receives from other Israeli cities. According to YNet News, they wrote: "We cannot but express hope that the municipality will not behave stingily again and that the sides can shake hands without further involving the court." The judges added that a respect for the gay community is what sets Israel apart from other middle-eastern states.

The ruling was welcomed by Yonatan Gher, director of the Open House, who said that Israel would no longer be able to treat gay people "disrespectfully".

October 20, 2010 – PinkNews

Israel’s only gay MP speaks out for marriage on visit to London

by Benjamin Cohen
Nitzan Horowitz, the first openly gay politician to be elected to the Israeli Knesset (Parliament), is a man on a mission. Representing the left of centre, pro-peace New Movement-Meretz party, he has called for Israel to introduce secular marriages for gay and straight couples as well as campaigning for help for LGBT people from neighboring Arab countries who risk death if returned home.
Speaking last week at a London meeting of young members of the Zionist Federation as well as a separate audience of LGBT Jews, Mr Horowitz spoke of his experiences as a gay politician and how they have informed his campaigning for human and gay rights across the middle east.

“If you solve the issues about separating religion from the state you can solve a lot of the issues relating to LGBT rights,” he told both groups. “Through the courts, but not through parliament, we have very good LGBT rights in Israel already. Because of the religious power in parliament, it was always going to be impossible to pass legislation specifically to protect LGBT rights, especially with this horrible right-wing government. So we go through the courts, using the aspirations of equality within the Israeli Deceleration of Independence as the basis for our claims.

“Actually, the situation on the ground is not bad, better than here in the UK in many respects. For example, if you live with someone for just three months, it is enough under Israeli law to be considered as a ‘common law marriage’, with no marriage ceremony or registration and it makes no difference whether the couple is gay or straight. So if something happens to me and I die, my partner gets all his inheritance without any tax, just as he would if we were actually married. But there is a real danger with things being decided by court precedents rather than by Parliament, because if another judge, who is less liberal, makes a different ruling, then rights could be taken away, just like that. This is something we have to try and avoid on a daily basis. But the real problem isn’t gay rights in my opinion, it’s tolerance. Rights are guaranteed by the court but if people are beaten in the streets, or there is hate crime, obviously that’s also illegal but it doesn’t stop it ruining or in the tragic case of a shooting in an LGBT youth centre, ending gay peoples’ lives.”

Part of the reason why Israel protects unmarried couples as if they were married is because of the complex system of religious law that underpins a Jewish country with a significant Muslim and Christian minority.

Mr Horowitz explained: “Israel is a messy legal system with personal law being determined by different religious courts. There are the Jewish courts, the Muslim courts and 13 different denominations of Christianity have their own religious courts. We inherited this system from the British, who in turn inherited it from the Ottoman Empire. What it means is that so many religious institutions have a say about how I can live my life, how the law applies to me, that there is no provision for secular personal law.

“So, a Jew can’t marry a Christian within Israel, nor can a Christian marry someone of no faith. And a Jewish man with the surname Cohen [in biblical times the name for a priest] cannot marry a divorced woman. They are all, like gay couples forced to marry outside of Israel. The state does recognise all of these marriages and gives the couples legal protection, but it is wrong that the ceremonies themselves, particularly civil ceremonies can’t be done inside Israel.”

Mr Horowitz also pointed out that the religious groups within Israel are united in their opposition to homosexuality. “The first time the country’s three religious leaders; the Chief Rabbi of Israel, the Catholic-Latin patriarch of Jerusalem and the chief mufti of the Muslim congregation have ever got together in history was in their opposition of World Pride coming to Jerusalem,” he said. “They got together and sat on the same table because of their hatred of gays.”

Speaking to, Mr Horowitz explained how gay Muslims are treated within Israel and the Palestinian Territories. “When I talk about gay rights to an enlightened Arab politician, who agrees with me about every other human rights issue, they simply say ‘no we don’t have this phenomenon, it is only the Jews who have homosexuals, we don’t have this problem.’ How far from the truth they are.”

Mr Horowitz added: “The gay Palestinians fear for their lives. They leave their homes in Gaza and Ramallah and come to Tel Aviv where there is a very big gay community and nightlife. The problem is that in Tel Aviv, they are living as illegal immigrants. But if you send them back to Palestine, they might be killed by their own families. So what I’m doing in some of these cases is working with like-minded politicians to find them a suitable country where they can live safely outside of the Middle East. I have helped some gay people get refugee status in Sweden, Norway and Canada. There are all sorts of solutions to enable to them actually stay alive. But some of them do remain in Israel of course and that is right and we must help and support them.

“As for the Arab countries around us, this is a big problem. They are fundamentally very undemocratic and oppressive societies that do not respect the human rights of any kind. But it should be a topic that is raised by other countries as we’re not in a position to influence them, they often don’t even recognise the State of Israel. The problem with non-Palestinian refugees is if they live in an enemy country of Israel like Syria, the border is closed and it is almost impossible for them reach us. Egyptians and Jordanians can come because we have diplomatic relations with them, but it is not very easy for gay people from those countries to live in Israel, because unfortunately, our own religious establishment is not very tolerant to gays either. The interior minister, Eli Yishai, the man responsible for issuing visas to asylum seekers hates gays, so it is impossible to talk to him about cases, it is very complicated, but I try my best that I can.”

2011 January –

Mental health among israeli homosexual adolescents and young adults.

by Shenkman G, Shmotkin D. – Department of Psychology, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.

This study examines the mental health status of Israeli homosexuals in adolescence and early adulthood in comparison to heterosexual controls. We compared 219 homosexuals (136 gay men and 83 lesbian women) with 219 individually matched heterosexuals on indices of depression and subjective well being. In line with the study hypothesis, the results indicated that the homosexual participants reported more depressive symptoms and more negative affect than matched heterosexuals. However, the homosexuals were also found to report a higher level of positive affect. This study suggests that co-activated systems of negative and positive emotions facilitate adaptation among young homosexuals.

January 13, 2011 – The Advocate

An Unlikely Activist – Meet Ezra Nawi, a gay Israeli rights advocate whose work transcends West Bank barriers

by Michael Luongo
The two men’s soft banter contrasts with their rough manual labor. They call each other “habibi,” Arabic for “darling,” as they belt out commands amid the harsh clanging of the metal pipes crashing into the bed of an ancient truck. On its own, habibi has no romantic meaning for men, but I also hear them say “karim” back and forth, meaning “gentle” or “kind” one, never sure if it’s another term of endearment or talk about the work. The heavy pipes need several men to lift them carefully so they do not fall onto the excited children who have gathered in this blackened, scrap strewn metal shop in Yatta, in Palestine’s West Bank.

It’s an unusual scene beyond language.
The center of attention is the activist Ezra Nawi. At 59 years old, he is a Mizrahi, or Arab, Jew, born to Iraqi immigrants. Ezra is also openly gay. He is in trouble with the law, but not on this side of the Barrier Wall. It’s the Israeli government and Army that have launched a campaign against him, hauling him and his Palestinian former lover, Fuad, through the Israeli legal system. Ezra’s homosexuality is one weapon used against him.

Ezra has most recently been accused of striking an Israeli policeman during a February 2007 Palestinian house demolition, recorded in the 2007 film Citizen Nawi by Nissim Mossek. As the house collapses, Ezra and the policeman run in. “In these eight seconds, when I am not seen by anyone, they say I assaulted the officer,” Ezra tells me. The incident created years of legal uncertainty for Ezra and is one of Israel’s most visible cases in the ongoing Palestinian conflict, ultimately landing Ezra in jail. Avichay Sharon, the legal assistant to Ezra’s lawyer, Lea Tsemel, explained it’s normal for cases to go on for years in Israel’s overburdened courts, especially those with “political contexts, political implications to them,” in which decisions are purposely delayed.

But on this cold winter day, Ezra is unbothered. All day long, he has anticipated seeing Ali, the owner of the truck, a kaffiyeh headdress–covered Palestinian man with a sun-withered face. “Ali is a great guy. Actually I offer him to marriage,” Ezra tells me, smiling mischievously. Of course, I know this won’t come to pass, seeing as Ali is married with children. Ezra has the support of famous Jewish liberals like Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, and Neve Gordon, who in a joint letter called him “one of Israel’s most courageous human rights activists.” Profiled in The New York Times, The Guardian, and Salon, Ezra has somehow escaped American gay media attention.

Ezra is humble, working-class, a liberal gay version of Joe the Plumber, his occupation. It shows in the small Jerusalem apartment where I meet him before our day in the West Bank to see his latest project, a windmill generating electricity for a Palestinian refugee camp. That’s what the pipes are for. Dressed in loose khaki military-style clothes, Ezra is always smiling bashfully. With his expressive hand movements and worn-out hat, he reminds me of Zorba the Greek’s Anthony Quinn. He devilishly tells me he reminds most foreigners of Sean Connery.

We spend the day driving Ezra’s dusty jeep, joined by Elad Orian, a 35-year-old Israeli engineer from COMET-ME, or Community, Energy and Technology in the Middle East, the group financing the windmill. Technically, it’s illegal for Jewish Israelis to enter the West Bank’s Hebron area. I worry more about how long it takes to get there, but as soon as I ask the question, Jerusalem still visible from the rear window, Ezra announces, “We’re already in the West Bank,” adding, “People don’t want to see their backyard. It’s very convenient to ignore it.” Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank combined are the size of New Jersey, only with a few million more people.

We enter a haunting, timeless land — rock-strewn Mediterranean hills, sheep chewing on the scrub, thick, heaving olive trees scattered into the distance. We’ve driven into the Bible. Israelis make a land claim based on the ancient text, but Palestinian life most closely resembles it. Ezra points out the differences between Palestinian farms and Israeli settlements, explaining, “Israelis are very neat and tight; it is modern. The Palestinians, it is families, small pieces, more traditional.” To my right I see dozens of stone enclosures, each with a tiny stone house, like something from The Flintstones, where shepherds stay. In contrast, the settlers’ land is green with machine-tilled rows, greenhouses abutting the roadway.

The pastoral view is disturbed by the constant ringing of Ezra’s two phones. He balances calls in English, Arabic, and Hebrew, telling me he comes out “six, two, four times a week, whatever is needed.” Once in Yatta, Ezra notices my fascination with young men on the street. “There are a lot of studs,” he laughs, using a vulgar Hebrew expression, throwing me off guard. It’s what makes Ezra intriguing: a constant switch from serious to silly. He adds that his varied background — being a gay Arab Jew — lets him work in different communities and help Palestinians. “Every minority should have sympathy with other minorities.”

As we exit the jeep, locals shout “Ezra, Ezra,” like he’s a rock star, but soon socializing gives way to work, as we head to the metal shop constructing the windmill.

Read Article

21 February 2011 – Pinknews

Israel appoints first out gay judge

by Staff Writer
The first openly gay judge has been appointed in Israel. Dori Spivak, an attorney and former Civil Rights Association chairman, was appointed as a judge at the Tel Aviv Labor Court on Friday. He is the deputy director of the Tel Aviv University’s law clinics and a longtime gay rights activist.
Mr Spivak has not commented on his new job but friends and fellow activists praised his appointment.

Friend Dan Yakir of the Association for Civil Rights Israel said he was an “excellent choice”. Mr Spivak’s partner and colleague at the university, Dr Yishai Blank, told YNET: “I don’t think sexual preferences had anything to do with this appointment. It’s a happy occasion for us personally and also for the State. “I’m not objective, of course, but I believe he is deserving in light of his skills, capabilities and his commitment to justice and the law.”

April 07, 2011 – Bay Area Reporter

A new generation of Israeli queer activists speak out

by Heather Cassell
A new generation of Israeli queer activists is galvanized to fight for LGBT rights in the aftermath of the 2009 shooting at Tel Aviv’s gay community center that left two people dead.
"It gave us more power … it made us grow as a community, it made us more aware, and that awareness gave us power," said Anna Shilansky, a young lesbian who was one of the people who was shot and injured on August 1, 2009. She was inspired by the outpouring of support from Israeli elected officials and citizens at a rally a week after the incident.

Recently, Shilansky and three other Israeli LGBT young people were in San Francisco and spoke at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav. She told an audience of about 50 people that she was afraid to return to the center after the shooting. She changed her mind after speaking with a counselor who reminded her that the center was her "home." "This place is my home. It’s where I got the strength to be myself and to live like I do," said Shilansky, 18. "Someone actually came into our home and shot our friends, but it’s still my home. That doesn’t change."

Shirel Touitou, 20, shared Shilansky’s feelings about the center being their home and how the shooting changed her. "I wasn’t that much of an activist before the shooting," said Touitou, who came out at 18 and moved to Tel Aviv soon after the shooting. "Now I feel more strong … we are going to be more strong." The visiting group also included a transgender man, Sam Rosenfeld, 18. Event organizers requested that the Bay Area Reporter not identify the fourth man, who is bisexual and in the military, due to Israel Defense Forces policies.

The young people are active participants in the Israel Gay Youth Organization housed at the center in Tel Aviv. The organization operates more than 40 support groups in 25 cities throughout Israel, according to the event organizers. The delegates came to San Francisco last month to speak to organizations about Israeli LGBT issues and continue to build coalitions with U.S. gay organizations – Jewish and non-Jewish, said Ilan Vitemberg, Israel education initiative director of the Bureau of Jewish Education. The delegation, the second to visit the U.S. in the past year, has received an overwhelming response from audiences and organizations that they’ve visited, said event organizers.

"It’s important for us to hear their stories and for us to understand their challenges and also for us to all work together to help make the entire Jewish world a better place for LGBT people," said Arthur Slepian, executive director of A Wider Bridge, which sponsored the young people. Israel’s policies for LGBT citizens and individuals living in the country are the most progressive in the Middle East, but the land of milk and honey can be bittersweet for queer youth.

The four speakers talked openly about their experiences coming out, growing up in conservative and Orthodox families, reconciling their faith and queerness, homophobia in Israel, openly serving in the Israeli military, and their observations of American LGBT activism and community. Josh Weisman, program director of A Wider Bridge, moderated the discussion.

Some of the issues the youths faced were very similar to those faced by LGBT young people in the U.S., such as family acceptance and homophobia outside of Tel Aviv, which is a gay mecca in the Middle East. Some of the youths’ families were accepting of their LGBT children, but others weren’t.

Read article

June 09, 2011 – The Jerusalem Post

Religious homosexuals join the march for Gay Pride

by Jonak Mandel
Google Israel backs observant gay groups; Havruta: "The fact that Google approached us is proof that it is no longer possible to ignore us."
Homosexual religious groups will be represented in a special float at Friday’s Tel Aviv Gay Pride March – a reflection of their growing prominence in both the homosexual and religious communities they come from.
The lesbian Bat Kol group, ‘Proud Minyan,’ religious groups from within the Israeli Gay Youth Organization, and Havruta will all be in the march. But, while in 2010 they were represented by a private car blaring hassidic music, this year they received the endorsement of Google Israel, which has sponsored a truck for the groups.

“The fact that Google approached us is proof that it is no longer possible to ignore us,” said Havruta spokesman Daniel Jonas, of his organization and the others in a statement. “We are involved, influential and, first and foremost, serve as a bridge between two extremes that in the not-distant past seemed distant and irreconcilable: the religious and gay communities,” Jonas added.

“We are aware of the controversy around participating in the march, but also of the great importance of it to members from the [LGTB] community, and outside of it,” said Bat Kol spokeswoman Renana Leviani. Not all religious-homosexual groups will be marching on Friday, however. The Kamoha group, which broke off from Havruta late last year after feeling that the veteran religious gay group in Israel was compromising on the religious adherence to which it was purportedly committed, will not take part in the Tel Aviv event.

“We are against marching, and so are all the national religious rabbis,” said Kamoha founder Amit.

“To march was not an easy decision,” Jonas said on Thursday. “One of the main reasons we are marching is that we meet growing numbers of people who, upon seeing kippas in the context of gay pride, realized that they are not alone, and were strengthened.”

“If, as a religious youth I had felt alone, without anyone to turn to, today young religious people have many more options,” said 29-year-old Jonas, who grew up in a liberal- modern Orthodox household in the capital. Nowadays, he continued, rabbis contact him daily for help and advice on their students. “Without us, there would be hundreds of youths from nationwide who wouldn’t know where to turn,” said Jonas. “Maybe this way we are saving lives.”

Even so, marching in an event associated with the most profane aspects of homosexuality is not an easy call for the groups struggling for more recognition in the religious societies they come from, and seek to be part of. “To a certain extent, it could damage our reputation within the religious sector,” said Jonas. “This isn’t the first time we are marching – we marched in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem last year – and every year our numbers at the march grow. Rabbis are asking our help and dealing with the issue [of homosexuality among their students] more and more.”

“If we cease to progress,” Jonas added, “we are liable to lose all of what we achieved up to this point.”

June 29, 2011 – Rainbow News
Russian to English translation

Palestinian LGBTs increasingly in conflict with the Israeli Arab LGBT organization

The Palestinian LGBT groups are increasingly in conflict with the Israeli Arab (Palestinian) LGBT organization was nearly cancelled the International Conference of Youth queer movements IGLYO, which is scheduled for the end of the year in Israel. According to the project Rainbow, all Arab LGBT organizations – Al Kaus, Asuat and PQBDS – demanded that the organizers IGLYO within the social sanctions to cancel the conference in Israel to end the Israeli occupation of Arab territories. IGLYO, whose headquarters is in Brussels, has about 80 young queer movements around the world. Since the submission of the protest, its leadership chose a cautious line, saying on its official website: We take very seriously and treat organizations and human rights issues, so we do not intend to gloss over the issues raised.

In October, the commission will hold IGLYO special meeting on the Arab-Israeli conflict, apparently with the participation of representatives of the Iggy and Arab representatives, in order to raise these topics for discussion, as well as to study and develop solutions. Director-General of the youth organization Iggy Avner Dafni is concerned: We are in limbo until the commission IGLYO formally announced its decision. City Council deputy Tel Aviv mayor and an adviser on LGBT issues, Yaniv Weizman, complained that in recent years more and more difficult to promote gay projects, because they encounter resistance not homophobic, but from left-radical organizations.

In the social network Facebook is a heated debate. Part moralizers accuses the Arab Organization of ingratitude because these organizations have been established in Israel and Israeli support, while the Arab countries today there is not one that promotes LGBT rights. Another part of the blame Israeli queer organization in the short-sighted, ignoring the needs of a conflict between two identities and queer Arab. It is expected that the Israeli gay and understanding of the situation of Arab solidarity in the queer …
Gay.Ru. Based on materials from Raduga.Co.Il

July 28, 2011 – Jerusalem Post

4,000 march for gay rights in the capital

by Melanie Lidman
1 arrested for throwing stink bombs; gay rights activists joined by doctors, tent protesters; haredim hold counter-demonstration in Mea Shearim. With rainbow flags waving and drums beating, more than 4,000 people marched in Jerusalem’s 10th annual March for Pride and Tolerance on Thursday The event took place with almost no incidents or violence.
The gay rights activists were joined by other groups who have taken to the streets in the current “season of protests,” including social workers, students, doctors and housing protesters.

“This is one day of the year that we can march through the streets exactly as who we are and the way we are, and we’re marching hand in hand with many of Israel’s struggling communities,” said Yonatan Gher, the executive-director of Jerusalem Open House, which organized the march. The theme of the march was “Intertwined Paths,” honoring the way the gay struggle has merged with popular struggles for equal rights, housing, minimum wage and other social issues. The theme was chosen four months ago, but is especially resonant given the current tent protests sweeping across the country.

The event, which has been plagued by violence from extremists in the past, went off almost without incident. Next to Kikar Paris near the Prime Minister’s residence, eight people gathered to protest the parade. Police kept them across the intersection and most of the marchers did not notice them. One haredi counter-demonstrator was arrested after throwing bags at the marchers with what seemed to be stink bombs. Gher told The Jerusalem Post that for the past four years, gay rights leaders have been in “discreet negotiations” with the ultra-Orthodox community before the march. Since through the discussions haredi leaders came to the conclusion that anti-parade riots only draw more attention to the issue, demonstrations and violence have noticeably diminished, said Gher.

“They realized this has nothing to do with them, and our march is not about sexual identity versus religious identity, but is about our identity as Jerusalemites to march in this city,” Gher added. MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), the second openly gay Knesset member, addressed the crowds before the march started in Independence Park. “We are marching under a flag of equality for us and a flag of social justice for everyone in Israeli society,” he said. “This parade is a symbol for this city that there are people that want to turn it into Tehran. But we will march under our flag to say that Jerusalem is free and will stay free and equal forever.”

Merav Cohen, a Jerusalem city councilor who has been one of the leaders of the tent protest in Jerusalem, announced early on Thursday that the tent protest would join the gay pride march. Dozens of social workers and representatives from the doctor’s strike also took part.

“The last few weeks, we’ve really been feeling the social struggle and it really feels like things are changing,” said 24- year-old Meretz activist Chen Ozeri, who has attended every pride march since he was 16. “Every time I get excited again, and am encouraged by all the people here,” he said. “We’re marching to the Knesset for a reason – the government needs to take us seriously because we’re part of the country and they haven’t done anything for our community since it was founded, they need to wake up.”

Read more

12 August 2011 – PinkNews

Tel Aviv LGBT youth centre faces closure

by Jessica Geen
An LGBT youth centre in Tel Aviv may have to close because of financial problems. The Bar Noar centre was the scene of a fatal shooting two years ago, in which a teenage girl and a counsellor died. The perpetrator has not been caught. The centre holds evening events and acts as a meeting place for LGBT youths. According to, management are deliberating whether to hold a final evening of activities tonight.

The facility’s director Shaul Ganon says it needs NIS 1,200 (about £200) a month to carry on. The centre receives few donations and although the amount needed is small, the centre says it has not been able to raise the funds. Speaking to last month, Mr Ganon said: “Personally, I feel that we have been abandoned somewhat and that is a shame, because the place is very important to a large number of youth. It is their second home. They get something here that they don’t get anywhere else. I am hoping a solution will be found. If no solution is found, we will have to close the club.”

Since the shooting, the centre has had to pay for a security guard to be stationed on the door during all events. Liz Trubishi, 16, and Nir Katz, 26, were killed when a gunman opened fire on a meeting. Fifteen others were injured. The killer has still not been caught. Homosexuality is legal in Israel and Tel Aviv is known for its vibrant gay nightlife.

August 16, 2011 – Time

Areleh Harel: The Orthodox Rabbi Helping Gay Men Marry Lesbians

by Cindy E. Rodriguez
Jerusalem – Six years ago, Areleh Harel, an Orthodox rabbi from the West Bank, devised a plan to help an Orthodox Jewish gay man
fulfill his dream of becoming a husband and father while keeping him in good standing with Jewish law and his community of believers. The solution: marry him to a lesbian. Through a friend, Harel found an Orthodox lesbian who also wanted a traditional family. Within a year, the couple married. They now have two children. No one suspects they are gay. Since that first arrangement, Harel has matched 13 gay-lesbian couples. (See why gay marriage still isn’t marriage for the religious.)

Until this spring, only a handful of people knew of his matchmaking project. Then Harel mentioned it during a panel discussion in Jerusalem on gay rights. A local reporter wrote about it, and the news went viral. Many gay leaders criticized the marriages, calling them deceitful and repressive. But several prominent rabbis supported Harel, calling his work a mitzvah, or good deed. As the news spread, Harel’s phone began ringing. Orthodox gay men were calling to ask:

Could this be right for me?
Harel, 37, says the number of gay people seeking these matches sparked his decision to take his project to the next level — the Internet. By September, he plans to unveil an online matchmaking service for Orthodox gay people. "This is the best solution we can offer people who want to live within the halacha [Jewish law]," Harel says. "This may not be a perfect solution, but it’s kind of a solution." (See pictures of same-sex couples getting married in New York.)

The matchmaking project comes at a time when Orthodox gay and lesbian groups are pressuring rabbis for acceptance. Prior to 2007, there were no Orthodox gay organizations in Israel. Now there are five, including one based in Jerusalem. In many ways, Israel is ground zero for gay rights for Orthodox Jewish people. Advocates say that if rabbis in the Holy Land become more accepting of gay people, that tolerance will reverberate outward into Orthodox communities throughout the world, which often take their cues from Israel.

The online matchmaking service will be fully operational by the end of the year, Harel says. He’s in the process of training five matchmakers, all of whom are heterosexual. Harel will stay on as a consultant but will limit his involvement to spend more time with his wife and four children. Harel is working with a closeted gay man who uses the pseudonym Amit and runs an Orthodox-gay organization called Kamoha, which is Hebrew for "Like us." Their plan is to set up the online service through Kamoha’s website.

Subscribers would pay a fee of about $42 and fill out a survey explaining what they want in a mate. A matchmaker would then arrange meetings between potential couples. If a match is made, the bride and groom would each pay 1,500 shekels ($430). Harel and Amit plan to call the service Anachnu, Hebrew for "We."

Amit, who is 28, has no interest in marrying a lesbian. He says that after years of therapy, he has come to realize he is "100% gay." But he says he knows other gay men who are "less gay" and enjoy sex with a woman. "We’re not pushing this on people," says Amit. "This is for people who want this because Jewish law says this is the normal way and because it’s the easiest way to have children."

September 2011 –

Israeli Gay Art Visits UK

London – An exhibition by gay Israeli artists in London and Manchester is the first of its kind in England. Following a brief showing at London’s Soho Gallery, the exhibition Freedom of Expression: The Colours opened in Manchester last week. Featuring paintings, photography and sculpture by 18 Israeli artists, the director of the Israeli Government’s UK and Ireland tourist office, Rafi Shalev said the exhibition reflects the vibrancy of modern Tel Aviv and said “the purpose of the exhibition is to celebrate Israel’s culture of tolerance.”

One of the featured artists is Raphael ‘Rafi’ Perez who lives and works in Tel Aviv promoting LGBT art and culture through his exhibitions and website in Israel and around the world. The organisers say Perez is the most prolific artist in the exhibition. An outspoken member of the Israeli gay art world Perez is inspired by the history and landscapes of Israel. His recent works concentrate on the urban scenes of Tel Aviv and describe the city as a place where cultural freedom prevails.