29 Mar 2009

Queer for Israel

Most of you know that I took a stongly-voiced position on the Israeli side during the last months of the media war thagt was fought between Gaza and Israel-sympathisers.

Putting that aside, I now want to put a 'pink' spotlight onto Israel and highlight some astonishing facts about a country wedged in between Arab nations.

Most are probably aware that queer boys and girls in Iraq, Syria, Egypt or Iran don't live a very "gay" life. In fact, homosexuality is even forbidden in every Middle Eastern country but Jordan, Turkey and Israel; Flogging, hanging, prison or at least social persecution are what waving the rainbow flag means in the rest.

In Israel, however, gay marriages are recognised, thus putting the Jewish state ahead of even most European countries or US states. (Yet, you can't technically gay marry there since the state doesn't perform civil weddings, it only recognised those declared by religious institutions. It does recognise marriages performed abroad but it would be up to the religions to allow them within Israel.)
Foreign partners of gay Israelis are granted citizen status and joint Adoption is possible since 2009.

Also, Tel Aviv hosts the only annual Gay Pride event in the Middle East and if you watch this video of it, you will witness it is not even a small even hidden in some back allies.

Many other aspects speak for Israel's progressiveness such as equal age of consent and anti-discrimination laws in employment since 1992.

Since 1993 the military allows proud lesbians and gays (like a very dear friend of mine) to serve their country or alternatively volunteer in the national services, such as the Association of GLBTs in Israel (Agudah). This makes Israel mroe advanced than the US who are - even under a black president - still now able to eliminate exclusion and state-operated discrimination.

Many gay-themed films aimed at the mainstream market such as "Yossi & Jagger" (2002), "Walk on Water" (2004), "The Bubble" (2006) and TV series like "Florentin" were produced in Israel.

My personal favourite of Israeli LGBT exports is the trans-singer Dana International, who in fact won the biggest music competition in the world, the Eurovision Song Contest in 1998. A recent music video of hers together with camp singer Idan Yaniv brought me to write this very article. Enjoy.

Sources: Wikipedia's LGBT rights in Israel and LGBT rights by country or territory