A recently-discharged soldier found himself wandering the streets and sleeping on a bench in Azrieli Mall after his parents threw him out of the house when they discovered he was gay.
A recently-discharged soldier, who served in an elite unit and lives in the center of Israel, found himself wandering the streets for days after his parents threw him out of the house when they discovered he was gay. “I never told anyone that I was gay because I was afraid of the reactions of my parents and the environment in which I lived,” said 21-year-old Dan (not his real name).”I was always in the closet. My mom either hired an investigator or somehow got into my Facebook messages and found out – she sent me messages that she was erasing me from her life and that I should not dare come back home.”
According to Dan, in recent months he has met a guy his age and very quickly they have become boyfriends, but he’s still deep in the closet. “I didn’t tell anyone that I had a boyfriend. I hid it from my family and my surroundings. I knew that they wouldn’t accept this and that they would reject me for life,” he explains. “It’s a settlement and a neighborhood that is really not tolerant towards gays, and I was afraid of the implications of what would happen if I told my parents about it.”
Dan’s affair with his boyfriend was kept entirely under the radar. Three weeks ago he was discharged from army service, and from time to time he visited his boyfriend in his home. “My boyfriend is still in the closet like me,” says Dan. “We are afraid of the families’ response.”
But a few days ago, something strange happened. Dan received a furious phone call from his mother, saying she knew he was gay, wishing him and his boyfriend to be burned in hell and all kinds of curses and insults. “Do not come home, you’re dead to me, you’re not my son,” his mother wrote in WhatsApp later. “I know everything about you and who you are and what you do.” Later on, the mother wrote to him: “Now I’m so furious that I want to suffocate you.”
The WhatsApp correspondence between Dan and his mother rolled onto the Israeli LGBT media:
Dan was left in the street with one shirt, one pair of pants and a pair of shoes. He spent the first few nights sleeping on a bench at the Azrieli Mall in Tel Aviv. “All my things were left in my parents’ house. I was without anything, I had no access to the house, I was left with no ability to take care of myself, and all that was because I was gay,” Dan says. “I roamed around Azrieli Mall during the day so that people won’t suspect I was a homless person and throw me out of there.”
Dan told the story only to his one friend. The friend updated the social activist from Be’er Sheva, Tzipora Halfon, who volunteers in the organization ‘Together for the Soldier.’ Halfon posted on her Facebook page and asked her friends to help Dan. “Just because he’s gay… Suddenly I understood what I’ve always known. When they come out of the closet, the parents go into the closet… I read the hard messages sent from his mother and I couldn’t stop the tears! With no food, with no place to shower and without a penny,” wrote Halfon. The post recieved hundreds of comments from people across the country who offered to help the soldier.
“It’s a heartbreaking story. I decided to do everything I could to help the guy, and I hope that the public will also help us help him start a new life,” Halfon told Mako Pride. Oshik Kraus, an accountant from Tel Aviv who read the post, came out to help the discharged soldier. MK Amir Ohana of the Likud also joined in helping him.
“It’s just a shocking and difficult story, and it’s very exciting to see how, in the face of the harsh and alienated attitude of the parents, so many good people have enlisted to help,” said MK Itzik Shmuli, member of the Work and Welfare Committee, who also was among the volunteers to help Dan. “Beyond the specific help in this case, a special session will be held in the Knesset to examine the assistance offered by the army to soldiers and discharged soldiers who have encountered similar situations with their families against the background of coming out.”
A few days after the the first post on Facebook about Dan, it looks like this story is going to end well. “Together for the Soldier” volunteers, colleagues of Tzipora in Tel Aviv, arranged for Dan to sleep in Beit Hahayal for a few nights, until a Tel Aviv resident agreed to join the rescue mission and offered him temporary residence. Dan started working temporarily in a cafe until he finds a permanent job. He still needs basic equipment so he can start his new life. “I need clothes, shoes, deodorant and anything basic until I start getting paid,” he says. “I’m starting a new life.”