Israel’s 20th Knesset was elected a few weeks ago but the forming of the government is still in its final stage. Within the distribution of the ministries and the coordinations of special issues are four members of the Knesset who are great friends of the LGBT community and are appointed to coordinate LGBT issues in the next Knesset: Merav Michaeli, Yael German, Michal Rozin and Miri Regev. Michaeli and German were interviewed by IGY’s website.
Coordinating a task force for LGBT issues began operating in the 18th Knesset and was initiated by former MK Nitzan Horowitz and Nino Abesadze, and during this past Knesset it was headed by Horowitz and Ofer Shelah from Yesh Atid. The task force addressed a variety of issues related to the LGBT community on its various levels, working to promote equality, openness and tolerance, and to struggle against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in all its forms.
Why did you take it upon yourselves to coordinate the LGBT issues in the Knesset? Can someone who is not part of the LGBT community do it?
Yael German: “I’m proud of the fact that for over 15 years I have been addressing issues of the LGBT community and it seems to me only natural and right to continue to do so as a Knesset member. In my opinion, you don’t have to be a member of the community to fight for equality in all areas, including on behalf of the gay community. History shows that Knesset members who weren’t part of the LGBT community coordinated LGBT issues in the Knesset, such as Nino Abesadze and Ofer Shelah and now Merav and I.”
Merav Michaeli: “I’ve been a supporter of the struggles of the LGBT community for many years, long before I was a member of the Knesset. In my view, all matters of sexual identity and gender are an integral part of the feminist struggle, part of my feminist worldview, which is advancing peace and equality for all. The struggle for equal rights and freedom concerns us all and we all have to contribute to achieving it.”
Do we need an LGBT Task Force in the Knesset at all?
Yael German: “When you look at the resistance to including the LGBT community in civil marriage, the opposition to surrogacy law, the war against the absurd conversion therapy, the fact that to date no one has dealt properly with the questionnaire for blood donation, and the statements that we heard just recently during the election campaign, the answer is: Unfortunately, yes. “
Merav Michaeli: “It’s true that the LGBT community in Israel enjoys very good conditions, certainly when compared to other minorities. However, there are still rights that haven’t been achieved and discriminations that should be repaired. Therefore, there is definitely a need for an LGBT task force. To date, the rights of the community were achieved mainly through personal struggles through the courts. Our goal is to promote equitable legislation and allow friends and members of the community full equal rights. The role of the task force is also to keep the issue in the daily agenda and to act as a liaison between community organizations and legislatures. Also, I was happy to see the community use its power and experience to act on behalf of other minorities, whose situation is not as good. There is much to do for them. “
In your opinion, what are the challenges still standing in Israeli society related to LGBT youth?
Yael German: “First and foremost, school education for tolerance and acceptance of the other. Locating the existing hardship for those who are coming out of the closet and suffering. And, speaking up not only about sexual orientation but also about transgender and gender identity people who suffer the most discrimination. For these I undertake to combat violence in schools and promote tolerance for sexual orientation and gender identity diversity “.
Merav Michaeli: “I believe that the primary challenge is the eradication of violence and LGBT phobia in the education system and informal settings. There is a need for a systematic plan to promote treatment for suicidal tendencies among LGBT youth and to ensure proper budgeting for it. There are of course many challenges, but these are the most urgent. “