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Why Israel’s LGBTQ Community?
As LGBTQ people and allies, we believe our societies are stronger when people of diverse gender and sexual identities, cultures, political perspectives, and religious views are welcomed and valued. We believe the LGBTQ community plays an important and unique role in societies in that we are everywhere – cutting across demography, geography, and ideology. In Israel’s case, we believe the LGBTQ community can play a unique and important role in creating a stronger, more cohesive and just Israeli society, breaking down barriers between the religious and the secular; Muslims, Jews, and Christians; and the many races and ethnic traditions represented in Israel- from Europe, Ethiopia, North Africa, Russia, the Middle East, and beyond.
A Wider Bridge’s Role
A Wider Bridge is committed to advancing full LGBTQ equality in Israel through ongoing partnerships with Israeli LGBTQ NGOs. Throughout the year, our AWB Impact initiative provides Israeli LGBTQ NGOs and leaders with public platforms to demonstrate their work, raise funds for community projects, and network with North American colleagues and communities working to address similar LGBTQ community challenges. A Wider Bridge supporters and allies work in tandem with our Israeli partners as North American advocates; building an international movement for the advancement of LGBTQ rights in Israel.
Legal Achievements and Challenges
Legally, LGBTQ Israelis enjoy widespread protections. Landmark legal victories include consensual same-sex acts (Knesset – 1988), workplace non-discrimination (Knesset – 1992), open service in the Israel Defense Forces since 1993, same-sex domestic partner benefits (Israeli Supreme Court – 1995), and recognition of same-sex marriages performed abroad (Israeli Supreme Court – 2006). (For more on achievements of the community, visit our page on the history of Israel’s LGBTQ community). Yet more work needs to be done in the legal sphere. Same-sex Israeli couples still cannot get married in Israel. The use of surrogacy by same-sex couples in Israel remains illegal, and the process of adoption remains deeply difficult. Trans* Israelis continue to face widespread discrimination in state institutions.
Social Achievements and Challenges
Socially, LGBTQ Israelis have come a long way. There are now multiple out Members of Knesset (Israel’s parliament), CEOs of major corporations, news anchors, and high-ranking military service members. And Tel Aviv has become a world-class LGBTQ city – some estimate 15-20% of Tel Aviv’s residents self-identify as members of the LGBTQ community. Tel Aviv’s annual Pride Parade is a celebration attracting more than 200,000 people from across the country and around the world. Yet beyond individual achievements and the openness of secular Tel Aviv, homophobia remains a challenge in the periphery of Israel and in the capital city of Jerusalem. LGBTQ youth continue to make inroads in their schools and communities around the country, yet they face many difficulties. The Orthodox rabbinate and religious communities continue to discriminate against LGBTQ religious Israelis, and block progress toward equality in the political sphere.. LGBTQ minority groups – Ethiopian Israelis, Arab Israelis, Russian-speaking Israelis, Druze Israelis, among others – face the added challenges of being labeled “the other” in Israeli society, and often face cultural roadblocks to LGBTQ visibility and acceptance in their own communities. And each year that passes, new issues come to the forefront of the Israeli LGBTQ community, including bisexual visibility, LGBTQ senior advocacy and care, LGBTQ refugees, and more.
Our Partners and Organizational Work
For more than 40 years, Israeli LGBTQ NGOs have been hard at work making Israel a more inclusive society. In July 1975, the Aguda – Israel LGBTQ Taskforce, the umbrella LGBTQ rights organization in Israel, was founded to represent the interests of the Israeli LGBTQ community. Over the years, the Aguda organized community activism and made significant strides on many of the rights LGBTQ Israelis enjoy today. The Aguda also incubated subsequent NGOs like Israel Gay Youth (IGY) and Hoshen (LGBTQ education), each working across Israel to improve the lives of LGBTQ youth and empower the next generation of change makers. In 1997, activists in Jerusalem founded the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, ending Tel Aviv’s monopoly on activism. In recent years, more communities stood up to make their voices heard. Ma’avarim and The Gila Project were established to advance Trans* rights in Israel. And leaders of Bat Kol, Havruta, and Shoval, Israel’s religious LGBTQ NGOs, “refused to choose” between religious observance and their LGBTQ identities. A Wider Bridge is proud to partner with these organizations and many more (see our full list of partners) in the struggle for LGBTQ equality in Israel.