Gender Equality

SDG 5 – LGBTQ on the Frontline

Even before the October 7 Hamas massacre, 2023 was destined to be remembered as one of the most turbulent in Israel’s history. No one felt this more than its LGBTQ community, which is currently fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with comrades from throughout society – as always.

Tragically, some have fallen in the line of duty; the most publicized death has been that of reserve duty Captain Sagi Golan, 30, killed in a shoot-out with Hamas at Kibbutz Be’eri – “ground zero” of the massacre. Golan and his male partner were to tie the knot in late October; the gay Israeli artist who was scheduled to perform as they went down the aisle instead sang at the funeral.

Golan’s partner later gave an emotional TV interview (Hebrew), recounting how the soldier that delivered the news treated him as irrelevant to the post-death arrangements – totally ignoring the romantic bond between the two. That interview, which shook the already teetering Israeli public, quickly led to corrective action by the authorities – with the Defense Minister making clear“Our moral debt to the bereaved family is enormous, and we do not distinguish between religion, race, sexual orientation, or any other factors. The Defense Ministry interprets the laws of families of fallen soldiers as such that they also apply to same-sex couples.”

True to his word, the Knesset (parliament) has already moved to amend the relevant law (the Israel Defense Forces itself has recognized same-sex unions since 1997).

SDG 5 - LGBTQ on the Frontline - Social Impact Israel
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Despite ongoing challenges of acceptance, the LGBTQ community’s motivation to assist remains high. For instance, 18 gay organizations set up a crisis center that serves as a POC between requirements on the ground and members who can provide solutions; a trans women NGO organized a shelter providing the needs of 350 displaced families from Israel’s south; a prominent journalist from the community established an advocacy center with dozens of volunteers putting forward Israel’s case around the world.

Apropos: Israel’s LGBTQ community has not been shy about venting its frustration with the response among sister communities abroad – expressions of solidarity have been minimal – particularly in view of the fact that LGBTQ persons are in constant danger under the radical Hamas regime. The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel recently disseminated a letter in this context calling for unequivocal condemnation of the Hamas atrocities, emphasizing: “The reactions of some of the LGBTQI+ activists and collectives worldwide are alarming and stand in clear opposition to queer activism and theory alike.”

This has been an up-and-down year for Israel’s LGBTQ community: it started with the appointment of its first ever Knesset speaker, a milestone achievement that was unfortunately followed later on by an uptick in acts of harassment (including a politician’s now infamous – and ironic – remark in June that “the gay community is more dangerous than Hamas, Hezbollah and ISIS”).

With Israel’s LGBTQ community demonstrating once again – this time in the fight against Hamas – just how integral a part of Israeli society it is, we truly hope that the year’s end will herald a return to the trend of acceptance witnessed during the past decade.

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