Israel Touts Gay-Friendly Climate, But Rights Fight Faces Religious Firewall

Baltimore Jewish Times summarizes the past few weeks’ events related to LGBT rights in Israel


On Feb. 23, eight separate Israeli parliamentary committees convened to discuss a broad set of issues facing the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Lawmakers from a range of parties talked about protecting LGBT Israelis in the classroom, at home, in government offices and in the army. That afternoon, the parliament officially recognized “Gay Rights Day in the Knesset.”

But 24 hours later, the atmosphere was markedly different.

On Feb. 24, the Knesset voted down a cluster of bills aiming at increasing LGBT rights. The defeated bills — including measures to establish civil unions, provide government benefits to the same-sex partners of fallen soldiers, prohibit gay conversion therapy and mandate training for health care professionals in LGBT issues — were all proposed by opposition legislators and rejected by Israel’s governing coalition.

“It’s historic that on one day, our issues were discussed in depth in all of the committees,” said Chen Arieli, co-chair of Aguda, an Israeli LGBT rights group. “What happened the next day was very sad.”

The contrast points to a dissonance in how Israel treats its LGBT community and their legal rights. For years, Israeli leaders have trumpeted the country’s welcoming climate toward gays and lesbians, especially when compared to Israel’s neighbors. Tel Aviv in particular is known as a mecca for gays, complete with a gay beach and a raucous annual pride parade.

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