Standing Together, They Can’t Take Our Pride Away

Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, actor Omar Sharif Jr. and transgender Israeli lieutenant spoke at the first of its kind Embassy event in Washington

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On June 20th the Israel Embassy in Washington D.C. held its first LGBT Pride Reception. Planned before the Orlando Shooting, the guest list included LGBT leaders and activists, journalists, actors, as well as national and international dignitaries. A delegation consisting of seven members of the Miami LGBT community were in attendance: Ariel Roman Harris, Media Affairs Director, Israeli Consulate General to Florida; Lynare Robbins, Journalist/Activist; Victor Herman Diaz, Executive Director of Pridelines; Kris Castellano, Activist; Damian Pardo; Activist/Senior Portfolio Manager of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management; Francesco Duberli, Chief Executive Officer, Survivors Pathway; and Carlos Sanchez.

The reception encompassed both a celebratory and solemn tone. Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Ron Dermer, opened up the reception with a moment of silence in memory of the people whose lives were taken in the Orlando massacre. He then began his address to attendees by saying “militant extremists come in numerous forms. They share the same ideology. They are against freedom and seek to hurl humanity back to the dark ages. All people are created in the image of God. The fight against anti-Semitism is a fight against every injustice. Attacks on the LGBT community is an attack on all of us.”

Next to address the reception guests was actor, model and activist, Omar Sharif Jr. who recounted his experience of coming out in Egypt as a gay man, “After coming out in Egypt I received intimidation, violence and death threats in Egypt, committed by a small minority of those who pervert Islam. Let’s come together, whether we are Israeli or Arab, gay or straight, or Republican or Democrat. Let’s let Pride month do this.”

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Reception guests then focused their attention on a speaker dressed in military uniform, Lt. Shachar, the first openly transgender soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). According to Lt. Shachar, facing his identity was a greater fear than any other experience in his life.

“I came out in the Army and received support,” He stated. “My service helped me to feel equal. I was finally able to breathe.”

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The IDF funds both hormonal therapy and gender reassignment as Israeli law mandates that public health care clinics fund gender reassignment once a person is cleared for the procedure both emotionally and physically. During their military service, soldiers are cared for by the Health Corps. Lt. Shachar’s transition has led to the integration of Transgender soldiers and policy modifications that help foster respect for Transgender soldiers, such as the proper usage of pronouns expressed by the soldier. He is often called upon to help advise commanders on these related policies.

Lt. Shachar stated “this is not only an LGBT fight, but a fight for all people to be free.”