Leaders from the American LGBT community arrived in the country on Monday for a
week of discussions about social and political issues in the Middle
The program, organized by Project Interchange, an institute of the
American Jewish Committee, is the first trip run by the project specifically for
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender advocates from the United
Nine LGBT American executives – from academia, the media, local
government and nonprofit organizations – will meet with their counterparts in
the LGBT community in Israel and will visit an LGBT community center in Tel
They will also meet with city councilman Yaniv Weizman, a prominent
figure in the Tel Aviv’s LGBT community.
In addition, they will meet with
members of the Agudah – the national LGBT organization in Israel – and the
co-founder of the Israeli Gay Youth Association.
The trip comes a year
after the US-based Equality Forum hosted a major summit in Philadelphia
highlighting Israel as the “featured nation” because of its gay-friendly
policies, the group said. Malcolm Lazin, the executive director of the Equality
Forum, is the trip’s chairman.
Sam Witkin, the executive director of
Project Interchange, said on Monday that the trip has been in the works for at
least two years.
“We look at this leadership group as we do other very,
very senior leadership groups from around the world as very important
influencers, opinion leaders in their communities and nationally,” he said.
“This is a group made up of national LGBT leaders and we think it’s very
Beyond specifically discussing LGBT issues, the group will
visit Ramallah to meet with Palestinian officials.
Witkin said the trip
aims to expose the LGBT leaders to various political issues faced by Israel so
that, “at the end of the week, these are very, very intelligent folks and they
will make up their own minds.”
In addition to being leaders in the LGBT
community in the US, the executives also carry political clout.
confirmation hearings for US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, a gay rights
group called Log Cabin Republicans paid for a full-page advertisement in The
Washington Post criticizing comments Hagel had made about gays. The executive
director of the group, Gregory Angelo, is one of the nine participants.
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