Thanks, but no thanks? The Ministry of Tourism announced a campaign to promote LGBT tourism with a budget of NIS11 million. Members of the LGBT community would rather see the money redirected to the real needs of the community.
The Ministry of Tourism announced its intention to invest 11 million Shekels in the near future to promote gay tourism to Israel. The ministry plans an ad campaign in several countries in Europe and elsewhere that will call for community members around the world to come and visit Israel.
“We are building a long-term strategic plan,” said Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin. “Various parties with whom we work marked the gay community as one that has significant growth potential and I certainly want to break larger numbers in tourism than there are today.”
Despite the fact that the funding for the campaign comes from the budget of the Ministry of Tourism, and not at the expense of the social affairs or education that are supposed to support community organizations, and despite an increase in LGBT tourism that yields profits for LGBT businesses, many people in the community have expressed dissatisfaction with the transfer of funds in favor of investment in bringing LGBT tourism to Israel, while the community itself gets meager budgets and fights every day for their basic rights to dignity, equality and security.
“We would have been happy to support and encourage the transfer of government budgets in favor of the community, but this bloated budget, 10 times the total funds received by all of the community organizations all year long, is transported on the back of the community”, said a statement from The Aguda. “Gay tourism is nice and the income it generates to the state is blessed. It’s just that the LGBT citizens of Israel, who live all over Israel, all year long, not just on Tel Aviv Gay Pride Weekend, there is no physical security, no employment, no equal rights and the budgets for education, information and services to the community are pathetic and insulting. As we have said again and again at the Knesset on LGBT Rights Day, the huge investment in publicity abroad is absurd while the LGBT advocacy inside Israel gets zero funding and the State of Israel does nothing against the raging LGBTphobia that claimed the life of Shira Banli Z”L only last summer.”
“This data is infuriating and outrageous and we must not congratulate the country on this hypocrisy,” said Imri Kalmann, co-chairman of the Aguda and a businessman in Tel Aviv. “The community organizations are begging for budgets and barely manage to scratch, in complex and complicated conditions, a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year. Eleven million shekels for a campaign to explain how much fun it is to have a gay vacation in Israel, while Hoshen, a community advocacy organization that fights LGBTphobia in Israel gets zero shekels. It’s really fun to have a gay vacation in Israel, but it is not thanks to the Ministry of Tourism or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or any of the government offices. It is thanks to the volunteers who give their souls so that another girl will not be murdered here in a gay pride parade again, and thanks to people that have made this city cool and fun in personal initiations and without any support from the state.”
“For the government of the Likud we are just a gimmick,” said a statement of the Labor Party’s LGBT caucus. “Just a month after 6 bills that would benefit the community in Israel were shot down by the government, the government decided that in order to take advantage of the community for public relations – all means are kosher. If even a third of these resources were allocated to eradicate violence against LGBT people in schools, or to aid the trans community that the state itself marginalizes – as a community, our situation would have been much better. If the government would bother to pass legislation that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT people, recognize all Israeli family types, and allow us to feel like equal citizens the rest of the year, not just in June when there is political gain -as a community, our situation would have been much better. Eleven million shekels does bring tourists to Israel, but our daily struggle as a community is to create a pluralistic, liberal society in Israel – everything that this government is trying to suppress. “