Tag Archives: israel

Israel military weekly in trouble over drag story

An article about off-duty soldiers in Israel doubling as drag queens has gotten the Israeli military’s magazine into trouble.

The military said on March 20 that the weekly, Bamahane, must from now on send its articles for approval by chief education officer.

The article interviewed three active duty soldiers who slip into drag after their shifts. It was illustrated by photos, including one of a soldier in military uniform wearing a gas mask and red, over-the-knee boots with see-through high heels.

The military says the army’s chief of the Education and Youth Corps is responsible for overseeing the magazine’s content, but that this has not been enforced.

Bamahane has written before about gays and lesbians in the military.

In 2001, an officer blocked publication of a cover story on Col. Eli Sharon that featured a picture of him holding the rainbow flag under the headline, “This is how I came out of the closet.” The weekly was shut down for a week then.

Tel Aviv named world’s best gay city for 2011

Tel Aviv was named the best gay city for 2011 in a contest sponsored by American Airlines and Gaycities.com.

The Israeli city, which sits on the Mediterranean Sea, garnered 43 percent of the vote to be selected as the “Best City of 2011” in the “Best of Gay Cities 2011” poll. New York City came in second place with 14 percent, and Toronto followed as third with 7 percent.

“Winning this competition constitutes an additional strengthening of the fact that Tel Aviv-Jaffa is a city that respects all people and allows everyone to live according to his/her own principles,” Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said. “Ours is a city in which everyone can be proud of who they are.”

Shai Doitsh, brand manager of the Tel Aviv Gay Vibe tourism campaign, told Ynet that the city’s “win is the culmination of six years of work and proof that the Tourism Ministry and the Municipality of Tel Aviv made the right decision to invest in gay tourism/” Doitsh told Ynet.

Organizers of the contest described Tel Aviv as the “gay capital of the Middle East … exotic and welcoming with a Mediterranean c’est la vie attitude.”

New York won in the best nightlife category, San Francisco took the best Pride city award. Buffalo, N.Y., was selected as the most up-and-coming city. 

Tel Aviv officials said the win will likely bring an influx of tourists.

Israel recruits gays as envoys

When it comes to stating its case internationally, Israel is tired of playing it straight: It is recruiting gays and lesbians as unofficial envoys.

In a bid to boost its international image, the country’s ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs has established a cadre of diverse volunteers who speak about Israel around the world, the AP reported.

In a recent post on its website, the ministry encouraged minorities and members of the gay community to step forward.

Ministry spokesman Gal Ilan said that the goal was to highlight Israel’s diversity. He said when people think about Israel, the gay community is often overlooked.

Israel has recently been promoting itself as a gay-friendly oasis in an intolerant Middle East.

Source: AP

Orthodox rabbi fixes gay men up with lesbians

Rabbi Arele Harel offers an unconventional solution for Orthodox Jewish gay men who want to raise a conventional family: He fixes them up with Orthodox lesbians.

His matchmaking service, which has just gone online, has met criticism on opposing fronts. Orthodox Jewish rabbis say Harel should be doing more to encourage gays and lesbians to try to change their sexual orientation. Liberal religious gay groups see Harel’s approach as a ploy to suppress gays.

The matchmaking presents an array of challenges. The relationship may be loveless. The partners may be tempted to seek sexual satisfaction outside the marriage. And the couple may need assistance to get pregnant. But Harel insists he just wants to help people have children, an important commandment of Jewish law.

“The main aspiration here is parenthood,” said Harel, 36, from his home in the Jewish West Bank settlement of Shilo. “It allows them to become parents in a way that is permitted by religious Jewish law and prevents a conflict between their religious world and their sexual world.”

Most Orthodox rabbis encourage gays to suppress their attractions, abstain from gay sex or undergo therapy to try to go straight. Harel believes some gays can alter their sexual orientation through therapy, and insists many do. The American Psychological Association has declared such treatments are ineffective and unethical.

Harel said his method is meant for those who can’t change, yet want to remain observant and have children.

Harel began matching lesbians and gay men six years ago, he said, because he recognized a “deep distress” among people “facing a dead-end road.”

More recently, Kamoha, a religious gay group, began receiving inquiries from gay men and lesbians about this approach. Kamoha linked up with Harel and last month began publicizing the initiative on its website.

Harel says he has wed 12 couples, and several have had children. More than 80 people expressed interest in the matchmaking service when it was publicized by word-of-mouth, and since it went online two weeks ago, Harel says he has received dozens of e-mails.

“Rabbi Harel introduced us and there was a good initial click,” wrote Sari and Avi, a couple Harel set up, in a testimonial on Kamoha’s site. “It’s not love. It’s chemistry, a sense of understanding and partnership, trust and appreciation.”

Harel was unable to persuade the couples he has already wed to speak to the media. But Kamoha referred The Associated Press to a man who has applied for Harel’s services, a 35-year-old Orthodox Jew in the closet.

He has had casual sex with men but desperately wants to raise a family. He said he has dated numerous straight women; none of the relationships led to marriage.

“It is a risky experiment but there is no other choice,” said the man, who refused to give his name because he is hiding his sexual identity.

He said he was willing to forgo love if it means being able to have children. He wants to try to refrain from seeing men when he is married but would discuss the issue with his wife if that changed, he said.

Harel said as long as both parties are aware the other is dating, it would not be adultery in such a union. He said the same would not be true for a straight couple because they are sexually compatible and have no reason to look elsewhere. Jewish law forbids adultery.

Harel contends that gay and lesbian partners learn to love each other once children arrive. “Their love is based on parenthood. Parenthood is the glue and it’s strong.”

Harel leaves it to the couple’s discretion whether to divulge their sexual identities to their children but he recommends they consult with a professional first.

Potential candidates e-mail Harel, who meets with them to assess if they are emotionally ready to be fixed up. Harel then picks a suitable match and introduces the parties. They are put in touch with therapists who are to assist them in their new life. Once they are married, they each pay around $400 for Harel’s service.

Israel’s secular majority and its Reformed Jews have largely embraced marriage equality for lesbians and gays. There is no same-sex marriage in Israel primarily because there is no civil marriage and all weddings must be done through the Jewish rabbinate, which does not marry gays and considers homosexuality a sin and a violation of Jewish law.

Gay adoption is officially illegal but some couples get around the law and surrogacy is an option for many same-sex couples. The partner of a parent can adopt the child of his or her partner. There are campaigns to allow for civil marriage, which could eventually pave the way for legalizing same-sex marriage, but Israel is far from both.

Still, Tel Aviv is considered one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, with annual Pride parades filling streets and rocking into late hours.

Among Orthodox Jews, homosexuality generally is considered an abomination. Gay observant Jews may be ostracized by their families and many opt to hide their sexual orientation. The more liberal streams of Judaism embrace gay couples and even gay rabbis.

In recent years, a number of religious gay groups have emerged, joining Pride parades and demanding to be accepted while not going so far as to ask for religious recognition for their relationships.

The liberal religious gay group Havruta opposes Harel’s approach, saying it seeks to “erase” homosexuals from the Orthodox community.

“They are saying, ‘Changing them isn’t possible, but how else can we hide their existence? If we can’t fix them then let’s set them up with lesbians,’” said the group’s spokesman, Daniel Jonas.

Yonatan Gher, the head of the Jerusalem Open House, a gay community center and advocacy group, said he doesn’t judge the lifestyle choice Harel advocates, but hopes young religious gays don’t feel pressured into choosing it.

Rabbis have criticized Harel’s method because it doesn’t try to discourage gays and lesbians from seeking to change their sexual orientation.

“There is an alternative,” said Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, from the Jewish West Bank settlement of Beit El. “When people hear voices that say you won’t succeed (to change), they think, ‘Why bother trying?’”

Israel: German partner of attack victim can stay

Israel has put a stay on plans to expel the German partner of an Israeli killed in a 2009 shooting at a community center in Tel Aviv.

Thomas Schmidt, 27, began the bureaucratic process of registering himself as the partner of an Israeli citizen in 2008. But less than a year later, a masked gunman opened fire at a meeting of gay and lesbian youth and killed two Israelis, including Schmidt’s partner, Nir Katz, 26.

It was the worst assault against Israel’s gay community. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to bring the killer to justice, while other Israeli leaders vowed efforts to promote tolerance toward gays and lesbians in Israel.

Police continue to search for the assailant.

Schmidt, who has lived in Israel since 2004, wishes to remain in the country, said Nirit Moskovich of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which represents Schmidt. He has grown close to the family of his slain Israeli partner and does not maintain contact with his family in Germany, Moskovich said.

Sabine Hadad, a spokeswoman for Israel’s Interior Ministry, said Schmidt’s case was brought last year before a special humanitarian committee, which ruled that Schmidt could extend his stay in Israel for nine months only.

But in mid-February, under pressure from the family and LGBT activists, Schmidt received an extension on his temporary visa.

From AP reports