Homosexuality in Israel

Israel is among the leaders in equality for sexual minorities.

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World Pride

The holding of World Pride in Jerusalem in August 2006 highlights the successes and challenges of Israel’s gay and lesbian community. The successes are many:  1) the growth of viable communities outside of Tel Aviv, symbolized by the Jerusalem community’s hosting of World Pride, an international gay pride event; continued legal successes, especially with respect to couple’s rights; and broad cultural visibility.

Likewise, the challenges remain. Israel's gay and lesbian community is shaped by the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians and the Arab states. The central part of World Pride, a parade through Jerusalem, had to be postponed (to an unknown date as of this writing) for two years in a row--first because of Israel's redeployment from Gaza, and then, because of the war that broke out on Israel’s northern border following Hezbollah's provocations. But before the parade had to be cancelled because of regional tensions, it was shaping up as a struggle between Israel's religious establishment and the gay and lesbian community.

The Jerusalem municipality and a veritable alliance of religious leaders united only in their opposition to homosexuality were determined to thwart the holding of the parade. An alliance of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious leaders, both local and international, contended that such a parade would constitute an attack on the sacred character of the city. They claimed that homosexuality so contradicted the teachings of all three of the monotheistic faiths that a parade for acceptance and equality of the GLBT community would forever stain the holy city. Even many secular Israelis normally supportive of the Israeli GLBT community viewed holding an international gay pride parade in Jerusalem as an unnecessary provocation, showing just how successful Israel's religious establishment has been in shaping a degree of obedience to its sensitivities. 

Since the writing of this article, the World Pride parade was finally held in Jerusalem on November 10, 2006 without the violence that many feared. Israel also elected its first openly gay member of the Knesset, Nitzan Horowitz.

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Lee Walzer

Lee Walzer is the author of Between Sodom and Eden: A Gay Journey Through Today's Changing Israel and Gay Rights on Trial.