In Jerusalem, LGBT People are ‘People With Special Needs’

In order for the orthodox Jewish council members to approve the budget for the Jerusalem Open House, the city municipality changed the definition of the target audience from “The LGBT community” to “population with special needs.”

This is the word-game that allows the orthodox Jews to approve a budget for the LGBT community in Jerusalem. A number of Haredi councilors voted last week in favor of approving next year’s budget for Jerusalem Open House, the Jerusalem organization working for the gay community. The reason they voted in favor? The budget clause did not include the name of the community and noted that the budget is for “centers providing community and recreational services and represent a population with special needs.”

While the budget clause and word choices indeed obtained the approval of the ultra-Orthodox, it caused a lot of criticism and raised eyebrows. “I was surprised and not surprised,” said Hanan Rubin, who holds files of students, young people and families in the city.

“I was surprised that it went smoothly. With me, the support committee, it was a mess. The Haredi Jews voted against, but at the Council meeting it went smoothly. It’s rare and it was actually happening for the first time. Usually they oppose and leave the vote and let it pass, but this time there was a passionate board meeting about urban renewal which the religious people opposed, fearing any transfer of funds to the Reform movement and any money transfer to culture would take place. But they seem to have forgotten to fight in this battle as well.”

Dr. Laura Verton (Meretz) added: “The only thing that I’m happy about regarding the Council meeting is that it was possible to fund the Open House without the need to return to the High Court, but the matter was hidden in such a long title that the orthodox people probably didn’t bother to read it.”

At the Jerusalem Open House the news was received and no one really knew how to react to it. “We are happy, but we hope that this year the budget will be bigger than last year,” concluded Sarah Kala, Executive Director of the Jerusalem Open House.