Group’s mission: Advancing LGBTQ rights in Israel

Activist and Youth Service Manager Tori Bertran who recently traveled with A Wider Bridge to Israel would like to correct the record after hearing anti-Israel activists’ allegations against our organization: “Throughout almost two weeks of meetings, not once did A Wider Bridge try to push a narrative onto us,” she writes.

Tori (left) shares a kiss with wife Jennifer in Haifa.

Two weeks ago, several marchers carrying Pride flags bearing the Star of David were asked to leave the Chicago Dyke March. The controversy that followed led organizers of the event to issue a statement in which they explained their reasons.

The Star of David was “triggering” people, and making others feel “unsafe” and “threatened,” at an event the organizers said was “pro-Palestinian.” The expelled marchers were “disrupting” chants by replacing the word “Palestine” with “everywhere.” Oh, and they were “Zionists,” in other words, they demanded equal rights for Jewish people at an event that prided itself for its “tolerance” and “intersectionality.”

Much was made of the fact that one of the expelled marchers is a staff member at A Wider Bridge, a progressive Jewish LGBTQ organization, which Dyke March Chicago described as having “connections with the Israeli state” and being “right-wing.”

Others have already written about the anti-Semitism of asking Jews — and only Jews — to renounce their symbols. I won’t rewrite those arguments, but I’d like to correct the record about A Wider Bridge.

I recently traveled with A Wider Bridge to Israel, along with 30 other American LGBTQ community members — almost all of whom identified as progressive liberals — on one of their mission trips to Israel.

The main part of A Wider Bridge’s mission is advancing LGBTQ equality in Israel, something all LGBTQ people everywhere should support. As part of its efforts to engage with American LGBTQ communities, A Wider Bridge facilitated meetings for us with Arabs, Jews, Druze and Ethiopians. We met residents of Tel Aviv, Afula, Haifa, Jerusalem, the Golan, Nazareth, and yes, the West Bank: Bethlehem, Ramallah, and even a Palestinian refugee camp.

Throughout almost two weeks of meetings, not once did A Wider Bridge try to push a narrative onto us. In contrast to Dyke March Chicago, A Wider Bridge does not enforce some ideological purity test — it presents an ongoing conversation, not dogma.

When we met with a right-wing Likud member, the next meeting would be with a member of the Knesset from the Labor Party. If we met with an Israeli peace activist, then the next day we would go to Ramallah with activists advocating for Palestinian causes.