The First Transgender Commander in the IDF Conquers a New Height

Ofer Erez, the first transgender officer in the IDF and one of the first in the world, will be released from the army at the end of the month and will take on his new position – the Executive Director of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance: “We must allow a space where everyone can feel safe and proud to be themselves.”

Ofer Erez, the first out transgender officer in the IDF, was elected to be the Executive Director of the Jerusalem Open House. Erez, in fact, will be the first ever transgender person to serve as the paid director of an organization in Israel. Currently, Erez serves as a commander in the planning division of the General Staff and is involved in national infrastructure projects, including the evacuation of IDF bases from the center of the country. At the end of this month he’s going to be discharged from the Israeli Defense Forces and will start his new role as early as the beginning of 2018.

Erez underwent a process of sex change during his military service, and he’s known as the first out transgender commander in the IDF and one of the first in the world. In the past few years he traveled the world as part of the Israeli ministries of defense and Foreign Affairs’ delegations, where he met leaders, foreign army representatives and Jewish communities, and shared his unique story.

Since 2013 he’s been a volunteering LGBTQ community advisor to the commander in chief of the Israel Defense Forces’s gender advisor, in addition to his regular military role. He has participated in the writing and the assimilation of a first-of-its-kind guide of procedure for transgender service in the army, that also serves as a role model for other militaries in the world.

“Beyond the challenges and opportunities that the role at the Jerusalem Open House offers, it is a great privilege to be Israel’s first Executive Director from the transgender community,” says Erez.”As someone who grew up in an inclusive environment but without community, I feel obligated to allow a space in which everyone can feel safe and proud to be themselves.”

Erez, who grew up on Kibbutz Kfar Menachem and now lives in Tel Aviv, will relocate to Jerusalem for the job. “The need for an open and safe space and the importance of the Open House in creating it became clearer, unfortunately, after the horrific murder of Shira Banki Z”L in the Jerusalem pride parade in the summer of 2015 – a murder that still resonates in all of us. I promise that we will continue and intensify our struggle with LGBTphobia and hatred – and I am very excited to take up the job and start working.”

The Jerusalem Open House Chairman Eran Globus said, “We are very proud of the selection of Ofer. Apart from his character and talent, his unique life track proves that he is the right person for the job and that he will take control of the many challenges facing the community, which is still suffering from violence and discrimination, as it has done so far. “