Pre – Passover Cooking Class


Passover is right around the corner. Are you ready?

Whether you like to cook or just like to eat, join us as Israeli chef Ayelet Latovitch invites us into her kitchen to make delicious Passover cuisine.

Throughout history, regardless of politics or current events, Jews find ways to connect with their holidays and history — and food is always at the center. Come cook along with Chef Ayelet during the livestream or view the recording later when you’re in your own kitchen.

AWB Vice Chair Daniel Hernandez will host this virtual cooking demo, where your questions will be welcome.

You don’t have to be Jewish! People of all and no faiths are welcome.


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A Wider Lens event with Dr. Corinne Blackmer.

Co-sponsored by East Bay International Jewish Film Festival & Deputy Consul General, Matan Zamir, Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest.


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Published first in JTA

The annual gala of A Wider Bridge, a Jewish LGBTQ group, had all the trappings of a festive event: Guests arrived in cocktail attire finery — one woman wore a tiered, ruffled rainbow dress — to enjoy salad, rice, chicken, an assortment of desserts and schmoozing — and to celebrate the achievements of four activists.

But even though it was the group’s first in-person gala since before the COVID-19 pandemic, the mood on Monday night wasn’t entirely celebratory. Throughout the speeches and sideline conversations was the sense that A Wider Bridge — which advocates for the LGBTQ community in Israel, and for Israel in the U.S. LGBTQ community — was entering a new and uncertain era.

“For Israeli LGBTQ, the ground has shifted beneath their feet,” the group’s executive director, Ethan Felson, said in a speech to the crowd of about 200 attendees. Citing LGBTQ activists in Israel, he added, “Calls to crisis hotlines are up. Incidents of emotional and physical violence are up in Israel against the LGBTQ community. … You can imagine the challenges the trans community is facing — a full assault on their rights and on their lives.”

The crisis Felson depicted has materialized under a new Israeli government that includes vocal anti-LGBTQ officials in senior positions, whose signature legislation to reform the judiciary threatens the set of LGBTQ rights that Israel has long pointed to as evidence of its open society.



That new reality has complicated the work of A Wider Bridge both in the United States and Israel, and interspersed in the night’s program — speeches celebrating four honorees, some stand up comedy from Jewish comedian Judy Gold, and even a recorded video from Vice President Kamala Harris — was an acknowledgement of the challenges facing LGBTQ rights in Israel. It has also caused the group to double its donations to Israeli LGBTQ groups this year.

“I’ve been in this work for 35 years, and through very complex times, I’ve never felt a greater sense of urgency,” Felson told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency at the event. “The urgency of this moment overshadows everything I’ve certainly done in my career.”

The gala, which took place in an event space lined with golden pillars whose arched windows overlooked Manhattan’s Union Square, occurred at the same time that Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich visited the Hasidic community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Smotrich has called himself a “proud homophobe” and sits in Israel’s governing coalition alongside Avi Maoz, who heads the anti-LGBTQ party Noam. The coalition also includes haredi Orthodox parties that have long opposed LGBTQ rights.

Yair Cherki, a religious affairs reporter for Israel’s N12, came out as gay via posts on his various social media accounts. Cherki comes from a religious background, and his father is a well-known religious leader, Rabbi Uri Cherki. We encourage you to take a moment to read the important and moving words of Cherki:


“I write these words shaking, postponing for tomorrow. For next week, for after the holidays. Maybe it’s been ten years since I’ve been writing and erasing. But now I am thirty years old. And I write not because I have the strength to write but because I have no power to stay silent.

I love men. I Love men and love god. It is not contradictory, and it is nothing new. I am the same person I was; the only difference is that it is not only me who knows now, you know, too. It was important for me to say this publically, even though it is a private matter. To live neither in the shadows nor in hiding. To truly live.

=I live the conflict between my sexual preference and my faith all the time. Some have solved the conflict for themselves by saying that there is no god, while others explain that there is no homosexuality. I know both exist. And I try to reconcile this contradiction within myself in various ways. These are things between god and me.


This is neither a fashion nor a trend nor a political statement. It is simply me. It’s another part of who I am and who I have been since the day I made up my mind. My community is still the religious community. This is my tribe, and this is my family and friends. These are my beliefs. They did not change but took shape over the years alongside the doubt and complexity.


I know that this truth I shared here saddens people dear to me whom I love very much. I hope you find a place in your soul that allows you to discuss this properly and understand that this step was made after deep thought and consideration. Your sorrow, perhaps, also stems from a lack of understanding of what I am actually talking about here. I tried to ignore it for years. Then push. And repress. And treat. I do not regret any attempt and effort; maybe without these attempts, I would not have been able to reach my conclusions—it is just a shame that it took so long.

And now: family.”


As a response to Cherki’s statement, Havruta congratulated Cherki and said:

“It is moving to read Yair’s coming out of the closet post. The connection between religious and LGBT identities, which Yair describes, is at the core of what we do. The life of religious LGBT people is not easy, and we congratulate Yair for his courage and honesty, and happy that he took another step to show that we are here. Religious LGBT people – come out of the closet. Be who you are. No one can tell you otherwise.”


Thank you, Yair, for your beautiful words. And thank you, Havruta, Bat- Kol and Shoval for the life-saving work you do by increasing LGBTQ acceptance and inclusion in the religious communities in Israel.

The political discourse in Israel regarding LGBTQ rights and equality in the last couple of decades was heavily influenced by two major hate crime events: the shooting in the ‘Bar Noar’, a queer youth club in Tel Aviv, and the murder of Shira Banki, a 16 years old girl in the Jerusalem pride march.

Bar Noar Shooting

On August 1st, 2009, a masked shooter stormed into the “Bar Noar”, a queer youth club located at the LGBTQ* center in Tel Aviv. It was a Saturday night evening, and the club was filled with teenagers and young people socializing in a club that was considered a safe space – for some of them, it was the only place that allowed them to be “who they are”, without hiding their sexual or gender identity. The shooter killed Nir Katz, a 26 years old who served as a volunteer in the club, and Liz Tarobishi, a 17 years old girl who attended it, and wounded eleven others, before escaping the scene. Until this day, the police did not manage to apprehend the shooter. 

The traumatic event fueled a massive protest on behalf of the Israeli queer community, as it allowed it to stress out the LGBTQphobia and daily feeling of insecurity that all community members face. News coverage of the crime scene equivocally “outed” many of the club’s attendees – some of them minors – whose families and friends have learned for the first time that their children identify as LGBTQ* on national TV. Some of the victims who were injured had to deal with expressions of LGBTQphobia on behalf of their parents, who refused to visit them near their hospital bed to avoid the association with the LGBTQ* community. These responses reflected the deep LGBTQphobia that queer youth deal with to the broad national discourse.

Shira Banki

Shira Banki, a 16 years old high school student from Jerusalem, was stabbed to death by Yishay Shlisel, an extremist ultraorthodox who raged a terror attack at the Jerusalem Pride March of 2015. Shlisel was known to the police due to another stabbing attack he committed ten years earlier, at the Pride March of 2005. After spending ten years in prison, Shlisel was released – and committed another stabbing soon thereafter. 


The Jerusalem Pride March is not a typical march, as it is set in the highly sensitive public sphere of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, it is a holy city that bears special significance to both Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and its population consists of various population groups from different religious, ethnic and socioeconomic characteristics. For all of these reasons, the march in Jerusalem is symbolic and political. The call for rights and LGBTQ* equality, while coming from the streets of Jerusalem, receives a special political, social and even spiritual depth. The murder of Shira Banki, a 16 year old, by a religious extremist, was not only a shocking event for the Israeli public, but also highlighted the urgency of the demand for tolerance and inclusion in Jerusalem and in Israel as a whole.


Published first at the Jerusalem Post 

The new Israeli government will likely have several politicians in leadership positions who will seek to turn back the clock on progress in building equality for all Israelis.

These are hard times for many of us who love Israel from the diaspora. We read news of more terror attacks against Israelis and we weep. And we read news of the elevation of politicians who are stridently LGBTQ-phobic, misogynist and racist, and we want to scream. We search for ways to hold our Israeli friends and family close. We know this is not a time for business as usual.

This year, we will come together to celebrate 75 years since the modern state of Israel was born. We take pride that Israel was founded as a Jewish and democratic state for all its inhabitants, regardless of religion, race or sex and guaranteeing freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture. These values have stood at the center of the Israel-Diaspora relationship.

But we cannot stay silent as extreme voices seek to erase many of those founding values that have made us so proud. The new Israeli government will likely have several politicians in leadership positions who will seek to turn back the clock on progress in building equality for all Israelis.

They reject Jews who don’t pray the way they do. They seek to undermine women’s equality in the public and religious realms. And they desire nothing less than to drive Israel’s vibrant, diverse LGBTQ communities back into the darkness of the closet.

Israel’s new government may want to turn back the clock on progress

Historically, as supporters of Israel, we have taken great pride in our close connections with Israeli elected leaders. We have welcomed them in our offices, met with them in Israel, and lauded their work in building and securing Israel and the Jewish future.

But the pro-Israel community has no obligation to meet with individuals who hold and promote extreme views. Where such meetings do take place, these encounters should be used to raise our profound concerns about full religious pluralism and equality for all, including the LGBTQ community.

We share the acute pain and worry that we have been hearing from our Israeli LGBTQ partners and friends. Will they stand alone as efforts are made to cancel LGBTQ Pride or to demonize it as a beast march, reducing LGBTQ individuals to subhuman status?

WILL WE sit silently as life-destroying conversion therapy is promoted rather than banned? Will we allow our trans siblings to be slandered and denied their rights and humanity? And will we stand idly by while all this hatred is normalized, knowing full well that hatred expressed in one place too often manifests as violence in another?

This challenge does not fall only to those who speak from a social justice perspective, each of us who advocates for Israel in the Diaspora has a role to play. By raising our concerns firmly and fully, we will reinforce our commitment to a strong US-Israel relationship – one that has a deep base of support across all sectors of the Diaspora.

We do this keenly aware of the unfinished business we face with rising hate and violence against the Jewish and LBGTQ communities at home and around the world. Our stance is the same when we confront hatred anywhere around the globe and we cannot abide it when it erupts in the homeland of the Jewish people.

Moreover, what standing do we have to speak out against antisemitism if any of us turn a blind eye to anti-LGBTQ hatred? Indeed, throughout much of the world, we sit in the same crosshairs. Many of the groups and people who mean harm to one group also mean harm to the other.

More importantly, the LGBTQ and Jewish communities are natural allies in fighting bigotry. We need each other and we cannot allow anyone to drive a wedge between us.

It is on us to speak up for our shared values: a baseline of social civility, opposition to extremism, protection of gender equality, promotion of anti-racism and equal treatment of all LGBTQ people as fellow human beings created in the divine image.

We love Israel today just as much as we did yesterday. But it can’t be business as usual when we interact with certain leaders. We must stay true to our values and hold them to account.


Amir Ohana, Speaker of the Knesset, LGBTQ, Gay, A Wider Bridge

Amir Ohana’s selection as the Speaker of the Israeli Knesset is the first time an openly LGBTQ person has been chosen for such a high and influential role.

This position comes with enormous responsibilities, both to the country and to the LGBTQ community specifically. Speaker-designate Ohana will represent a government in which positions of authority have also been given to some of the most LGBTQ-phobic Israelis. A Wider Bridge is deeply concerned about the lives, safety, and rights of all LGBTQ Israelis in this dramatically changing environment. We call on MK Ohana to stand up for them and all marginalized Israelis. Together with our Israeli LBGTQ partners we will be watching closely and working to ensure expanding not contracting LGBTQ equality in Israel.

Amir Ohana, Speaker of the Knesset, LGBTQ, Gay, A Wider Bridge

Amir Ohana’s selection as the Speaker of the Israeli Knesset is the first time an openly LGBTQ person has been chosen for such a high and influential role.

This position comes with enormous responsibilities, both to the country and to the LGBTQ community specifically. Speaker-designate Ohana will represent a government in which positions of authority have also been given to some of the most LGBTQ-phobic Israelis. A Wider Bridge is deeply concerned about the lives, safety, and rights of all LGBTQ Israelis in this dramatically changing environment. We call on MK Ohana to stand up for them and all marginalized Israelis. Together with our Israeli LBGTQ partners we will be watching closely and working to ensure expanding not contracting LGBTQ equality in Israel.

Mary DeBacker decided to join A Wider Bridge’s Mission to Israel in order to educate herself more about the country. Here’s her reflection on the trip.

When I was ten, my family moved to a Detroit neighborhood that had a mix of Jewish and Catholic families. Our home had a mezuzah at the door when we moved in. This was my introduction into Jewish tradition, and I had more experiences as I grew up. I’ve always respected the Jewish faith, believed in the right of Jews to have a homeland, and followed the news about Middle East tensions. But as life went on, I grew tired of the back and forth hostility between Israel and its neighbors. Since it didn’t appear that either side was interested in getting to peace, I paid less attention to the issue.

With the 2016 Creating Change conference horde that hijacked A Wider Bridge’s session, the issue of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict became front and center for me again. When I learned about the protest, I was disappointed with the lack of knowledge about what A Wider Bridge represents, which was a result of not talking and learning about A Wider Bridge’s mission. I believe in speaking up, but protest works best when you’re challenging an actual opponent, and not just a headline. However, I wanted to understand the reasons for the objections, so I was interested when the opportunity to travel to Israel for cross cultural discussion was offered.

We left for Israel, in shock about our election, on November 9. My first impression of Israel when we exited Ben Gurion Airport was of palm trees and sunshine. Then I spotted the IDF soldiers with automatic rifles casually slung over their shoulders. The sight of the IDF made me pause, and made me cognizant of Israeli’s concern for security. Throughout our trip I’d occasionally see the IDF in the streets, we saw them at the checkpoint into the West Bank, and we sometimes had a security team as we traveled. Yet at no point during the trip did I feel endangered; I just became sensitized to the fact that Israelis live with the constant potential for bloodshed.

The trip started in Jerusalem, with several discussions about current Jewish thought about the state of Israel and the conflict. We went to the West Bank, where we met with several groups working on Palestinian issues. We toured Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust museum, a heartbreaking, yet educational and inspiring experience, which reinforced my understanding of the desire and need for a Jewish homeland, and that the world must never let such an atrocity happen again. We also met with members of the Knesset (Israel’s national government), which helped me to understand current political conditions.

After Jerusalem, we traveled north to the upper Galilee, then made our way to Tel Aviv. Throughout the trip, we met with many LGBT groups and other organizations focused on a variety of social issues. In Tel Aviv, we toured the Yitzhak Rabin center, which again made my soul cry, as his assignation in 1995 altered the nascent peace discussion profoundly. On our last evening, we met with a gay Tel-Aviv councilman who reaffirmed our hope that some government representatives are interested in working toward an equitable solution to the conflict.

In reflecting on what I learned on this trip, I still believe in the two-state solution. I believe that Israel’s continued development of settlements in the West Bank is illegal, and will continue. I also strongly believe in Israel’s right to exist, and that the goal of the elimination of Israel as a nation is wrong. I understand that the process to develop a two state solution is complicated, with questions about borders and security being critical to a resolution, and that there’s plenty of blame to go around. With the current political administrations in Israel and the US, it feels like the path to peace is narrowing and coming to a dead end.

Even with the gloomy outlook, I am hopeful and re-engaged. Just because something is complicated doesn’t mean it can’t be solved. There are many organizations in Israel and in the US that are committed to solving this complicated issue. If we want peace to come to the Middle East, we must take action, such as educating ourselves and supporting those working for peace by respectfully speaking up.


I was privileged to join the A Wider Bridge 2016 LGBTQ Leadership Mission to Israel on November 10, 2016.  A Wider Bridge, of which I am now a member of the Board of Directors, connects the Jewish LGBTQ communities in North America with LGBTQ communities in Israel. I was particularly interested in participating in this trip because the participants were leaders in various LGBTQ and civil rights organizations in North America. The participants ranged from journalists for LGBTQ publications, to ACLU professionals, to political staffers and community leaders. The participants were from all parts of the United States – from Seattle to Minneapolis to Chicago to New York and D.C. and Florida. A majority of the participants were non-Jewish and first timers to Israel. Having been to Israel numerous times, I was fascinated to experience Israel for the first time through the eyes of non-Jews and first-timers to Israel. The trip was, in a word, extraordinary. Here are my highlights from the trip.

The trip started in Jerusalem with a dinner presentation on November 10 by Yiscah Smith, a trans educator and author of “Forty Years in the Wilderness: My Journey to Authentic Living”. She lectures widely in Israel and the U.S. on trans issues and presented us with a version of her TED Talk. At Shabbat dinner the next night, we heard from Sarah Weil who leads an initiative called “Meeting Place” which is on the frontlines of LGBTQ activism in Jerusalem and engages some of the worst homophobia head on through radical empathy and compassion and whose dedicated activists are committed to opening hearts and minds, one person at a time, through face to face encounters and dialogue every Thursday night at Zion Square in Jerusalem.

Shabbat was spent on the West Bank visiting Bethelem, the new city of Rawabi and Ramallah. In Bethelehem, we met with representatives of Wings of Hope, an NGO providing psychological support for a wide range of counseling services for people of all ages who suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome and other psychological problems. They counsel over 1,000 people at their Center with a staff of 8. They provide individual, group and couples and family counseling, including over 600 children. Most of their donations come from Germany and they can always use more funds to provide more and better services. Their staff is trained in Ramallah on how to address LGBT issues in Bethlehem society.   We also visited the separation wall from the Palestinian side in Bethlehem. The graffiti on the wall tells its own story of how the Palestinian people view the Israeli occupation and the separation wall.

Our visit to Rawabi was fascinating because it is an ultra-modern, planned city for Palestinians. While it currently has about 2500 residents, eventually it may house up to 40,000 people. We ended our visit to the West Bank with a meeting with another NGO, Zimam, a movement of moderates dedicated to fighting extremism, non-violently challenging the Israeli occupation, and building a sovereign and democratic Palestinian state. I asked the Ziman presenters if they have any contact with the settler movement. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that they do not.

I have participated in other tours and programs on the West Bank (a trip to Hebron with Green Olive Tours and an Encounter trip to Bethlehem ) to meet with Palestinians, but visiting with these two organizations and seeing Rawabi was a very different and enlightening experience.

On Monday morning, we met with three members of the Knesset. Amir Ohana is a member of Likud, openly gay, married and a father. He spoke of what it is like being gay and a member of a right-wing party in Israel and spoke about human rights and immigration issues and his support for LBGT rights. On the immigration issue, he pointed out that asylum seekers come to Israel for two reasons – a better life (economic) or as refugees (fleeing repression). Those seeking a better life are turned back. Michal Rozin, a member of the Meretz party (which had a poor showing in the last election) is a strong advocate for LGBT rights and, as a member of the Opposition, opposes many Likud government policies. The third speaker was Sharren Haskell, a young member of Likud who also professed strong support for LGBT rights and spoke at length about environmental issues. She stressed that she wants clean air, water and food while at the same promoting industry self-regulation on environmental issues. All of the speakers addressed the issue of two states with differing views on whether there will be one or two states and whether Israel will use eminent domain or annexation to incorporate parts of the West Bank in Israel proper.   None offered a solution, realistic or otherwise, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We visited Nazareth later Monday and were treated to an extraordinary experience at the Polyphony Conservatory ( which brings together Israeli and Arab children and young adults to create music. The conservatory builds bridges between Arabs and Jews through the common language of music and we were treated to a performance by five of the students in the school’s program. Through their residential and visiting music programs, they reach 8,000 children in Israel annually and their student orchestra has traveled throughout the world. The Jewish and Arab students study the same curriculum and their role models are graduates of the conservatory program. Some of their graduates have gone on to professional careers in music. The Israeli government provides funds for teacher training and there are currently 170 Jewish and Arab teachers learning the music curriculum to apply in their local schools. World renowned musicians teach master classes at the Conservatory and Renee Fleming, the world famous opera singer, hosts a video that promotes the school (and there are several you tube videos of the students at the conservatory). The conservatory is truly inspirational and was yet another example of what we experienced where Jews and Arabs work together to create a peaceful and respectful society.

We made our way to the wonderful Pastoral Hotel in the kibbutz Kfar Blum (I was in the Whoppi Goldberg room – the Building 6 rooms are all named after movie stars, the Building 5 rooms after composers, etc.) and after dinner we had a group debriefing session on what we had experience so far on the trip.

The next day we did a jeep tour near the Lebanese border overlooking the Hula Valley, visited the Adir Winery (great goat chesse and spectacular wine), spent lunchtime in Safed and then visited an Ethiopian Absorption Center  where we learned about the challenges of integrating Ethiopians who came from rural farming communities in Ethiopia who spoke no Hebrew into a multi-cultural Hebrew speaking society. We were treated to a home visit where the woman of the house made a special Ethiopian bread for us and we visited a kindergarten class where we colored with the kids and played a game of musical chairs (I came in second!).

That night we had a presentation from an LGBT group from Afula, a city of about 50,000 people where the LGBT community has created its own social organization on what they call the “periphery” of Israel gay life (meaning not Tel Aviv and not Jerusalem). They could easily live in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem but they march to their own drummer and create their own events for their communities. It was fascinating to learn about LGBT life in the Israeli periphery (much, I imagine, like LGBT life in small cities in the South and Midwest US). There was a big party planned for the night after we left Kfar Blum that we were all invited to. However, we were heading the next day to Tel Aviv via Haifa and Jisr-al-Zarqa on the Mediterranean.

Our stop in Haifa included, of course, the famous Baha’i Temple Gardens but the most interesting visit was to the Haifa LGBT center where the folks we met with were very excited that they were about to move into their own facility and create their own LGBT center. Haifa, in additional to being Israel’s most beautiful city, is the most “integrated” Israeli city with large Jewish and Arab populations and lots of programs that bring together Jews and Arabs to pursue common interests. Haifa hosts an annual gay pride parade where attendance increases each year.

Our last stop before arriving in Tel Aviv was in the village of Jisr-al-Zarqa, a small fisherman’s village located on Israel’s northern coast. The only remaining Arab town in Israel on the Mediterranean Sea, it is located just north of Caesarea and just south of the Taninim Nature Preserve. Jisr Az-Zarqa means “bridge over the blue” [stream]. In Jisr an Israeli Jewish woman working in partnership with a local Arab entrepreneur that created the guest house that is invigorating the economy and has helped create a tourist industry in this tiny Arab village that is a throwback to the middle of the 20th Century. This is another example of Arab Jewish cooperation and why Jisr was added to our itinerary. The guest house  is the focal point for building the tourist industry in this town. And, since I’ve never encountered bakery that I could bypass without first tasting something, I wandered to a local bakery where I bought two of the most delicious chocolate rugelach that Israel is known for (Marzipan doesn’t hold a candle to this small Arab bakery) and where the prices were half what they were in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. We hiked out to the fishing port, past a 16th Century Ottoman ruin and viewed the Mediterranean surrounded by ramshackle fisherman building and a smatter of seaside restaurants (November is not the high beach tourist season in Israel) so there were few diners. The view and scene were extraordinary and with some luck this “village that time forgot” will become a significant tourist destination and improve the lives of its residents.

And then we ended the trip in Tel Aviv where I hadn’t been for several years. At dinner that evening, we heard from Mickey Gitzin, an out gay member of the Tel Aviv city council and Executive Director of Israel Hofsheet which is a grassroots movement that strives for an Israeli society that practices cultural and religious pluralism, protects civil rights, and upholds the principles of democracy and Zionism as put forth in the Declaration of Independence. He spoke about the challenges facing the LGBT community in Israel and dealings with the Orthodox community and the right wing government.

Thursday morning (it was hard to believe we had already been in Israel a week but we did so much it also seemed like we’d been there for several weeks) we met at the Aguda, the umbrella headquarters of Israel LGBT organizations. Our first presentation was by a panel that consisted of a transgender activist, a transgender Israeli soldier and three lesbians who do family counseling. After their presentation we broke up into groups and I was able to spend some quality time with Ofer Ben David Erez, the transgender soldier who spoke of his transition from female to male and what it was like for him to enlist in the military and be accepted as an equal to other males. For me it was a real educational experience.

The second group we met with included an Arab gay man who spoke about what it is like to be gay and Arab in Israel. Mohammed Wari is a well-spoken young man who talked about his coming out to his parents and his family and his becoming a gay activist in the Israeli Arab community. Mohammed was a victim of Palestinian terrorism in March, 2016 while jogging in Haifa. In this article he is quoted as saying: “Terror has no color, race, or religion. Terror is an illness that needs to be stopped. Terror has a clear goal: to kill and destroy the world and the coexistence, in which we live.” His life story is really an inspiration and I really enjoyed the time I spent listening to his life experience and his hopes for the future.

After lunch we visited Beit D’ror (House of Freedom)  which is unique center for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender adolescents who have been rejected and alienated because of their sexual orientation. It is a temporary shelter providing basic home conditions for nine adolescents (male or female), for a period of no longer than six months. Besides offering a safe home, a warm bed and meals, it also provides psychological and moral/social support, direction in finding future longer-term solutions, as well as enrichment and educational activities. Crisis intervention and counseling are provided in a safe and welcoming environment by a professional, approachable and supportive team. After our visit to Beit D’ror some of us went on a walking tour of Jaffa and that evening we met with leaders of the Tel Aviv LGBT community at a rooftop reception.

Our last day included a visit to the Rabin Center which is the national institute established by the Knesset in 1997 that advances the legacy of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a path-breaking, visionary leader whose life was cut short in a devastating assassination. The Center presents Yitzhak Rabin’s remarkable life and tragic death, pivotal elements of the history of Israel, whose impact must not be ignored or forgotten lest risk the recurrence of such shattering events. The Center’s mission is to ensure that the vital lessons from this story are actively remembered and used to shape an Israeli society and leadership dedicated to open dialogue, democratic value, Zionism s and social cohesion.

The Center promotes activities and programs that inspire cultured, engaged and civil exchanges among the different sectors that make up the complex mosaic of Israeli society.   The building is extraordinary with sweeping views of Tel Aviv and movingly tells the story of the life of Yitzhak Rabin through dioramas and photos embedded in the floor that show life around the world at during important times in Rabin’s life. While we only spent one hour touring the museum, on one’s own one could easily spend twice that amount of time learning about Rabin and his world.

We had free time Friday afternoon to visit the Carmel Market or just relax before the evening Shabbat program. I decided to go to the Carmel Market which was a real treat because it was incredibly busy with everyone getting ready for Shabbat. That evening we met with members of the Israeli Orthodox LGBT community including Zehorit Sorek and Daniel Jonas, leaders of Bat Kol and Havruta, Israeli Religious LGBTQ Organizations. The dinner was followed by a moving and meaningful visit to the Rabin Memorial at Rabin Square. It was my last official event with the Wider Bridge group as I had an early morning flight to Los Angeles on Saturday morning.

I said my farewells to the group at Rabin Square and told them that this was the second most significant trip of my many trips to Israel – the most significant being my trip to Israel in September, 2000 with my husband, Lowell Gallagher, on his first trip to Israel. On the Wider Bridge trip, seeing Israel through the eyes of non-Jewish and first-timer LGBT leaders had a lasting impact on me. Hearing the comments throughout the trip from my traveling companions, especially those who are not Jewish, and their marveling at what an amazing and vibrant country Israel is and more fully understanding the sobering reality that both Israelis and Palestinians live in gave me a new perspective on how I view and understand Israeli society, the Israeli LGBT community, and the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians.