Leaders of the LGBT and Hispanic communities met Monday with the Israeli Minister of Tourism, Uzi Landau, to discuss sending a delegation to Israel to promote travel, commerce and cooperation between Los Angeles and Israel.

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The meeting was initiated by Vice-Chair of Public Policy for the American Jewish Committee and Candidate for West Hollywood City Council, Cole Ettman.

Ettman, who’s Jewish, and very passionate about Israel, considers bringing LGBT leaders to Israel as one of his personal missions. “With the growth of BDS on college campuses and increased anti-semitism, it is imperative to have other groups by your side,” Cole says. “It really hurts to hear that LGBT student groups would be swayed to support The Students for Justice in Palestine.  How can they not understand that Israel is the only place in the Middle East where a gay individual is safe, and also welcome. Where women and minorities have equal rights. Where democracy prevails.”

“This is why I want to bring non Jews to Israel, those  with constituencies that will listen to their experiences in Israel. They are leaders of diverse groups at major Fortune 500 organizations, marketing professionals, political and community leaders.”

In February , the American Jewish Committee held an event at the Los Angeles Cathedral of the Angels in conjunction with the Archdiocese, where Ettman met Scott Feinerman, who serves as Director of Travel Industry Relations at the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.  “After discussing my efforts to bring LGBT leaders to Israel, we kept in touch,” explains Ettman, “and shortly after that I was invited to meet the Israeli Minister of Tourism on his recent trip to Los Angeles. I brought leaders from both the LGBT and Hispanic communities. I presented my plan to create a delegation of Los Angeles based LGBT leaders with strong constituencies here to visit Israel with the purpose of educating people, building closer relations between Southern California and Israel and to promote Israeli tourism.”

Uzi Landau is a member of the Knesset for Yisrael Beiteinu, a party that has never publicly advocated the LGBT community agenda, nor does it have an LGBT members forum. Minister Landau himself has refrained from voting in the last few Knesset bills for equal rights for the LGBT community, and in the past even voted against equal rights. Nevertheless, in his meeting with Ettman and the other LGBT leaders, Landau discussed human and civil rights in Israel and mentioned the thriving LGBT community in Tel Aviv and its community center.  “We discussed LGBT individuals traveling from all over the world coming to Israel and the tremendous pride celebration,” Cole says. “The Minister was very pleased with our presentation and has committed, along with the Los Angeles Consulate to make this project a reality.”
Ettman plans to invite journalists, corporate leaders, non-profit and political leaders for a trip, hopefully in the summer of 2015.  “I explained to the Minister the overwhelming positive feedback that I always receive from individuals of the LGBT community upon their return from Israel and the need to broaden our reach,” he says. “With anti-Semitism on the rise both here on college campuses and in Europe, it is imperative to have others see firsthand the reality of Israel. “

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