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Jewsweek.com | Orael is frightened of going to school in Israel's
Upper Galilee, where he must endure a barrage of anti-gay slurs.

Classmates see him as effeminate, and taunt him repeatedly.
Accustomed to being called "disgusting freak" and "faggot," he
expects even worse from his upcoming compulsory army service.

  
In Israel's north, few homosexuals have come out of the closet.
Orael — whose last name is being withheld to protect his safety — has
fled the fervently religious town of Safed more than once because he
feels so alone.

In fact, the 16-year-old had never met with a group of openly
lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people until he told his story
to 13 such visitors on a mission from the San Francisco-based Jewish
Community Federation last month.

Amazingly, despite the absence of a supportive, visible community
nearby, the lonely teenager without so much as an e-mail account
somehow developed a fierce sense of pride about his sexual identity.
Even the "out" travelers from the so-called queer mecca couldn't have
expressed their convictions so forcefully at such a young age:

"Being gay," Orael stated flatly, "is a gift."

Orael reached that epiphany completely on his own. But that's not the
case for all queer and questioning youth in other regions of Israel —
thanks to Agudah, the nation's primary Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and
Transgender (LGBT) rights association. Sa'ar Nathaniel, a board
member of the Tel Aviv-based organization, shared the community's
advances of the last decade with the Bay Area "Journey of Pride"
visitors.

"There's little gay-bashing here," said Nathaniel, who recently
opened Jerusalem's only gay and lesbian pub. "Verbal, yes, but it's
not physical like in the States...It's more stuff like, `Please don't
hang that rainbow flag there.'"

And that's not the only differences between gay life in Israel versus
that in the United States. For instance, sodomy laws were repealed
years ago, discrimination was banned in the workplace, and immigrant
same-sex partners of Israelis are eligible for visas even if they're
not Jewish.

More significantly, the Israel Defense Force policy on gays in the
military resembles what Clinton once envisioned for the United
States — before he broke his campaign promise. And perhaps more
surprisingly, the Orthodox in Israel are less concerned about
homosexuality than one may think.

Because of a ban that was lifted in 1993 under the Rabin
administration, when the angst-ridden Orael is drafted in two years,
he will have the option of telling his fellow soldiers and commanding
officers that he is homosexual — whether he is asked or not.

While not all LGBT Israelis feel it is safe to be open about their
sexual orientation, the most recent generation of soldiers is much
likelier to be out than the preceding one, and many report few or no
repercussions. Nonetheless, the barracks are by definition not gay-
friendly, and the policy does not guarantee freedom from humiliation
and harassment.

Last week, for instance, the Jerusalem Post reported a flap that
occurred when an Israeli general ordered an army journal not to
publish an issue with a cover story focusing on a reserve colonel's
homosexuality. Although the IDF's chief of staff denied the dispute
was related to the colonel's sexual preference, and said the journal
would maintain its normal publishing schedule, many in the LGBT
community felt he was downplaying the general's apparent homophobia.

Shaul Ganon, another Agudah board member, said he is encouraged by
the positive experiences of the newest crop of queer soldiers but he
made it clear that the climate of intolerance that existed during his
own military days — before the ban was lifted — is far from over.

"If someone had found out about me," Ganon deadpanned, "I'd have
probably put a gun to my head, as two of my friends did."

The Orthodox establishment, on the other hand, is certain not to
adopt any change in its stance toward gays and lesbians. The
fervently religious political parties do not accept homosexuality as
an acceptable lifestyle.

However, anti-gay lobbying is neither on the top — nor a large part —
of their agenda, as it is for most in the religious-right arm of the
Republican Party in the United States.

"Right now, LGBT people are not direct targets of the ultra-
Orthodox," said Shai Levy, one of the Agudah's active
volunteers. "They're much more focused on things like getting
immigrants to become religious."

With Orthodox legislators distracted by such concerns as the growing
movement to allow buses to run on Saturdays, less attention is drawn
to those quietly lobbying on behalf of gay rights. Last year, for
example, the Agudah and others successfully pushed the Knesset to
lower the legal age of consent for homosexual sex, which had been 18,
to equal that of heterosexual intercourse, which is 16.

Israel's liberal Supreme Court — which Nathaniel calls "the Wailing
Wall of the secular" — has also made a series of pro-gay rulings in
the family law arena.

For instance, in a landmark decision last spring, the court agreed
that former San Francisco resident Nicole Berner-Kadish is legally
entitled to be registered with the state as the mother of 5-year-old
Mattan, although her partner, Israeli-born Ruti Berner-Kadish, is the
biological mother.

Nonetheless, Israel still lacks a written constitution that
guarantees secular rights, enabling religious interpretations to
permeate state institutions. That Jewish law is such a guiding force
in the Israeli national conscience is particularly troublesome for
those Orthodox who acknowledge their homosexual desires.

While the number of religious Jews who openly identify as lesbian or
gay is indeed low, researchers generally accept that 10 percent of
women and men in the general population have homosexual inclinations,
a percentage that may be higher in Western industrialized countries,
which include Israel.

In heavily-populated Jerusalem, small chapters of "Orthodykes"
or "Moah Givra," — something of a gay beit midrash — meet discreetly
at anonymous locations arranged by the Jerusalem Open House, the
city's queer community center.

But more likely Jerusalem's Orthodox feel being gay and frum are
mutually exclusive, and thus face the difficult dilemma of choosing
which life to abandon. Others take a different route: ending their
lives altogether.

The high rate of gay and lesbian suicides in Israel prompted the
Agudah and the Jerusalem Open House to set up 24-hour hotlines for
people grappling with their sexual identity.

However, Orit Volovelsky pointed out that homosexual haredim are not
just wrestling with God. The clinical psychology intern explained
that since so many queer people opt for secularity, "the Orthodox are
treated as an outside group within the LGBT community."

But even as gay Israelis leap toward equality, Levy contends the
overwhelming need for crisis intervention demonstrates that the
country's queer community is "very young and not fully developed."

For that reason, members of the Agudah are somewhat envious of what
they observed when they visited San Francisco last October.

Volovelsky said the small delegation she and Levy were a part of was
excited to visit the Reform Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, known for its
specific outreach to LGBT Jews.

"It felt good to be around everyone," she said. "Sometimes it's odd,
or funny, to see the differences between being a Jew in Israel and
the rest of the world."

Levy noted that the well-established pluralism in the United States
allows for "religion to play a totally different role" than it does
in Israel, where there are only about 10,000 Reform Jews and 7,000
Masorti (Conservative). Between these two non-Orthodox streams, there
are less than 100 congregations, none of which is gay-specific.

"… In San Francisco, there's butch-femme, there's Jewish, there's
Christian, there's Republicans, there's Greenpeace gays..."

—Orit Volovelsky

 

"Synagogues [like Sha'ar Zahav] are more of a community center,
something that unites," he said.

Volovelsky, who facilitates the Agudah's youth support groups, also
joined Levy in railing against what she calls "our `80s thinking."
Despite all the recent legislative gains, on a cultural level, she
said, Israel's queer community lags far behind San Francisco
specifically and the United States in general.

"Here, I'm a lesbian, that's it. We're still trying to be the same;
we're too scared to say there are differences. In San Francisco,
there's butch-femme, there's Jewish, there's Christian, there's
Republicans, there's Greenpeace gays.

"We do have Russians and Arabs but because it's a small community, it
seems like there's just one community."

That immigrants and non-Jews feel increasingly welcome in Israeli gay
organizations may be the key to breaking down the homogeneity
Volovelsky complains about. (For the time being, some of those
measures are on hold; with the new intifada, it is too dangerous for
Palestinians and some Israeli Arabs to travel to certain cities.)

Acknowledging that prejudice against "the other" does occur in the
LGBT community, Levy nonetheless believes the notion of shared queer
identity often overcomes any tendency to splinter. "We're much more
communal than in Israeli society as a whole," he said, recognizing
that Jewish sabras value the diversity Muslims and others bring to
the queer community.

Levy also pointed out that while gay men in America are often
perceived as a relatively affluent group, that is not the case among
their Israeli counterparts. Without a steady source for major
financial donations, organizations like the Agudah struggle to stay
afloat, no matter how remarkable their achievements.

"The generation that is out and active is even worse off than the
general community in terms of financial well-being. If they're 20-
and 30-something, it's almost impossible" to contribute monetarily.
The older generation is the wealthiest, Levy added, but is mostly
closeted.

However, a gay, youthful sensibility does guarantee a thriving
culture and nightlife, enough so that the visiting San Franciscans
didn't feel homesick in the least.

"Florentin," Israeli television's attempt at cashing in on the Aaron
Spelling formula, introduced gay characters to prime time four years
ago. And young pop fans — not just the LGBT community — danced in the
streets when transsexual performer Dana International put Israel on
the cultural map after her "Diva" won the 1998 Eurovision Song
Contest, the World Series of pop music.

And as far as the "scene" is concerned, Tel Aviv is unquestionably
the hot spot. Increasingly, bars, cafes and dance clubs
(called "parties") boast that they are gay or gay-friendly. Even
Nathaniel, a Jerusalem resident who promotes parties and opened a gay
pub there, admitted, "Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is like Amsterdam to
Tehran."

When the Agudah organized its first Gay Pride celebration in the
coastal metropolis in 1993, a modest 300 participated. By last year,
more than 10,000 Israelis hit the streets donning rainbow flags,
drag, glitter and slogan T-shirts for the annual June occasion.

And because LGBT people from San Francisco and Israel have
participated in reciprocal missions, they have had much opportunity
to provide insight and swap ideas about how to build community.

Lior Mencher, the Agudah's executive manager, noted that the San
Francisco delegation's "older sibling status" helped us "to see
things that are happening here in an entirely new perspective.

"They've already been through a lot of what we are going through now,
and we gained so much from just sitting and talking to them."

One of the topics the Israelis and Americans discussed extensively
was the Tel Aviv queer youth shelter.

Citing the large number of homeless LGBT teenagers, Michal Eden, the
city's first openly lesbian council member, championed her
municipality's project as a facility that "will not say no to any boy
or girl in Israel who needs it."

Orael from the north is one of those youth Eden surely has in mind.
Unfortunately, the shelter is only in the early planning stages so
its completion will be too late to help young people like Orael.

According to a group e-mail sent by a gay man from Kiryat Shmona,
shortly after the "Journey of Pride" group returned home, Orael had
to flee Safed again because of troubles with his family. He was
thought to be en route to Tel Aviv.

Based on the subsequent posts, there is no doubt LGBT activists in
both San Francisco and Israel are crossing their fingers that Orael
can find his way to the Agudah's community center.

***

{TJ Michels, who accompanied the San Francisco-based Jewish Community
Federation's "Journey of Pride" to Israel last month, writes for the
Jewish Bulletin of Northern California. This story first appeared in
the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California.}

(c) 2001 Jewsweek.com

 

TRAITOR McCain

jewn McCain

ASSASSIN of JFK, Patton, many other Whites

killed 264 MILLION Christians in WWII

killed 64 million Christians in Russia

holocaust denier extraordinaire--denying the Armenian holocaust

millions dead in the Middle East

tens of millions of dead Christians

LOST $1.2 TRILLION in Pentagon
spearheaded torture & sodomy of all non-jews
millions dead in Iraq

42 dead, mass murderer Goldman LOVED by jews

serial killer of 13 Christians

the REAL terrorists--not a single one is an Arab

serial killers are all jews

framed Christians for anti-semitism, got caught
left 350 firemen behind to die in WTC

legally insane debarred lawyer CENSORED free speech

mother of all fnazis, certified mentally ill

10,000 Whites DEAD from one jew LIE

moser HATED by jews: he followed the law

f.ck Jesus--from a "news" person!!

1000 fold the child of perdition

 

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