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Support LGBT rights? Support Israel!

Nov 1, 2012

By Yael Steinberg

With all the news of death, destruction, and the demand for reform in the Middle East, West Coast students are showcasing an example of what freedom really means, from the one place in the region that allows rights to the LGBT community: Israel!

Students region wide have been hosting events that bring awareness to the openness of Israeli society. One reason for this sudden trend is a Stand With Us initiative to tour drag queen and IDF Sergeant, Yossi Herzog, on West Coast campuses. Our Hasbara fellows are coming up with creative ways to Integrate Yossi into relationship building LGBT friendly events.

Hasbara fellows in Aztec’s for Israel at San Diego State, co-hosted a panel discussion with the LGBT Student Union entitled “LGBT rights in the Middle East.” The  event brought the “inside scoop on the LGBT community of Israel.” According to Hasbara Fellow Molly Mendlesohn, hosting this discussion served as an opportunity to build positive relationships between Aztecs for Israel and other campus organizations. There were even members of the Students for Justice in Palestine, and similar groups, who attended.

UCLA’s Bruins for Israel hosted an event October 9th, in which Yossi Herzog spoke about the “personal and religious challenges” that accompanied being an openly gay soldier in the IDF.  This interactive event allowed for open conversation about a topic which up until recently has been taboo in the United States, but in Israel has been commonplace for some time.

Continuing the trend, students in the Santa Cruz Israel Action Committee (SCIAC) are working on an LGBT themed Shabbat at Hillel, entitled “Israeli Pride Shabbat: Celebrate Gay Rights in Israel!” This special Shabbat is being co-hosted by the Cantu Queer Center. The goal is to stimulate conversation about Jewish Identity and LGBT rights by educating the community about LGBT rights in Israel.

It’s important that students continue to make the connection between the Israeli and LGBT community. This natural coalition partner can be a valuable asset to proactive advocacy on college campuses, and is a relationship that both communities can be proud of.

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