The organization Hoshen, the center for education and information for the community, is trying to change the perception that LGBT life happens only in Tel Aviv. It aims to stimulate the periphery and build a strong community in the north and south of Israel.
“The community does not live only in Tel Aviv ,” says Executive Director Irit Zviely-Efrat (in the photo,left), a Haifa native. “The reality of LGBT youth who live in the periphery is very complex and involves risks that youth are being exposed to. As a girl who grew up in the area where there is not a lot of talk about LGBT, I know how silence can be very influential on youth struggling with this issue.”
After years of hard work to strengthen the peripheral community , including educational activities, seminars and workshops , Hoshen has launched a new campaign to recruit volunteers for the north and south of the country.
“It’s one of the campaigns that I have a lot of passion for ,” says Zviely-Efrat. ” There is something pioneering in the sense that the ground is still virgin and the challenges are different than the challenges in the center, so I’m very happy that Hoshen can, after all the work on the field, go out and do this campaign. ”
Amnon Shavit (left), 52, a current Hoshen volunteer in Haifa, is originally from a kibbutz in the Hula Valley, and has been living in Haifa with his partner for the last four years, after 21 years in Tel Aviv. After getting a taste of the big city, he knows how to point out the difference between Tel Aviv and Haifa in terms of the LGBT community. “Over the years I volunteered in various organizations in the community. I joined Hoshen after the murder at the Bar Noar because I felt like we were living in a bubble. We thought that everything was fine, until suddenly it blew up in our faces . My partner and I moved to Haifa and encountered a very different community than the one in the center. Haifa’s community is struggling for mainstream recognition, budgeting , activity and support. The municipality does not prevent, but neither does it help .”
What do you think the place of Hoshen is in building a community ?
“Hoshen is an organization of volunteers that works for a particular purpose. The fact that there is the presence of representatives of Hoshen within this very diverse community raises more interest and can increase the exposure of Hoshen in more schools , organizations and institutions. It requires more volunteers from the region of the Galilee , the valleys etc. We would love to get volunteers who grew up in the north and stayed in the north, instead of people who only came to study there. ”
Why join Hoshen ?
“As a child growing up in a kibbutz, being gay was a frightening experience . I could not imagine what would happen if someone found out my secret . I was lonely and didn’t have anyone to share my secret with. The adolescent experience is very strong . Therefore the activity of Hoshen is important to me, because we come to schools and contribute something to change the attitude of the youth.
“Today I encounter much more openness. There are places I go and people ask, ‘ Why did you come here anyway? ‘ Because obviously there’s openness and acceptance. But when you go deeper into the subject you still discover fear, prejudices or lack of acceptance.”