WEST HOLLYWOOD Mayor John D’Amico and Consul-General to Los Angeles David Siegel prepare to cut a ribbon at the inauguration of a West Hollywood- Israel joint HIV/AIDS task force at the Kol Ami synagogue on Thursday night..
(photo credit: ISRAEL CONSULATE IN LOS ANGELES)
LOS ANGELES – The City of West Hollywood in Los Angeles County is home to almost 35,000 people and approximately 41 percent of them are gay men. A progressive city incorporated in 1984, many of its residents were victims of the AIDS epidemic during that decade. As such, West Hollywood has often been the leader when it comes to the plethora of funds and services that it provides for those living with HIV and/or AIDS.
And so, it seemed fitting that the first joint HIV/AIDS task force between Israel and the United States is taking place in West Hollywood. The venture – to share clinical best practices, establish intergovernmental communication and bring together HIV/AIDS nonprofit organizations operating in West Hollywood and Israel – was officially inaugurated at Kol Ami synagogue in West Hollywood on Thursday night.
The task force was created thanks to the work of the consulate in Los Angeles, and an agreement signed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with California Gov. Jerry Brown in March.
It was sponsored and approved by the West Hollywood City Council in July.
The entire city council, along with Consul-General to Los Angeles David Siegel were in attendance for the ribbon cutting ceremony and it was particularly poignant to hear both Mayor John D’Amico and council member John Duran speak about how they are both part of the 1.1 million people in the United States living with HIV.
D’Amico said, “The morals and the values of the Jewish faith are in fact many of the values that were around when the city was founded. We genuinely believe in helping people in all the stages of their life.” He added, “I’m excited by this [partnership] because a country like Israel and a place like West Hollywood understand that the luck and promise of providing for others is an actual thing and we can do that.”
Duran spoke of his recent trip to Israel, where he saw the work done by the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.
“I’m so excited about the possibility of working together with our people who have had these extraordinary experiences [suffering through the AIDS epidemic] for 30 years, and collaborating with Israel,” he said.
Siegel spoke about Israel being an oasis, and a place of scientific innovation with groundbreaking work on HIV/AIDS taking place at the Technion in Haifa. While many people see Israel as a place of war, Siegel said, “You should know that Palestinians with HIV come to Israel for treatment...
Israel is a refuge for minorities being persecuted in the Middle East including members of the LBGQT community.”
He also spoke about how people often see Israel as a very religious community but noted that Tel Aviv has a vibrant gay community and celebrated its 16th Gay Pride Parade this year.
“And Jerusalem,” he said, “The holy city of Jerusalem, just had its 13th gay pride celebration today.”
Kol Ami’s Rabbi Denise Eger noted that the inauguration of the task force came at a fitting time ahead of the Jewish New Year when people will wish everyone a year of happiness, health and sweetness. “These are the things that we hope that out of this partnership,” she said. “Sweetness and happiness and health, not just for the City of West Hollywood and Israel, but for the whole world.”