Idan Matalon joined the Israel journey of A Wider Bridge and discovered that while Israelis dream of the American dream – the Americans dream of Israel.
It’s true that I’ve visited Jerusalem and the Dead Sea dozens of times, and it’s true that I’ve been living in Tel Aviv for years, but a few weeks ago, I joined 21 LGBT North Americans who came for a first visit to Israel as part of a project of the American organization A Wider Bridge. I had the opportunity to feel what people ‘from the outside’ really think about Israel and about our LGBT community and the opportunity to experience visiting places for the first time with them.
A Wider Bridge is a pro-Israel organization which aims to create a deeper relationship with Israel and the LGBT community. The organization’s flagship project is called A Wider Bridge Israel Mission.
What I found unique about this journey is the fact that this group unites young and older people, Jews and non-Jews, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgender people, and everyone is interested in Israel and want to know more about the country and the LGBT community. They want to connect and support more.
I was amazed to see the process that the people went through while visiting our country, the questions they asked, the conclusions they have come to about the LGBT community in Israel compared to the communities in their home towns in the United States, and the connection that was created between them and the people of the Israeli LGBT community.
“In most of the Middle East today, it is not safe to be a Jew, not safe to be an LGBT person, not safe to be a Christian, a Jew, or a woman. Yet Israel, with all of its social divides, still provides more safety and equality for minorities, for women, for LGBT people, than most countries of the world,” says Arthur Slepian, the founder and executive director of A Wider Bridge.
The group met influential people in the gay community in Israel, learned about the history of the State of Israel, the complex security and political situation. They visited the famous tourist sites such as Masada, the Dead Sea, Old Jerusalem, The Israel Museum, Rabin Museum, Tel Aviv, Old Jaffa and more.
Most of us Israelis think that America is the best place in the world, and I remember feeling that it is very ‘luxurious’ to join Americans for such a trip. But it turns out that for them we are the ‘luxurious ones,” those who dare and initiate more; we are the small yet developed country, with a rich history, the most liberal and gay friendly place in the Middle East.
So America will always be America, but surely I left very reinforced about my views on our country, and I felt proud of our community, which is rich in creative people who think outside the box.