A LGBTQ Birthright Israel group ready for the Pride Parade in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: BIRTHRIGHT ISRAEL)
Birthright Israel is getting creative with ways to make young adults connect with the Holy Land.
They offer different trips that focus on being active, Israel’s culinary scene, arts and culture and now also an experience for those who identify as LGBTQ.
This Taglit still takes participants to all the iconic Israeli sites - like the Dead Sea, Golan Heights, Yad Vashem, Masada and the Old City - but adds activities specifically for young Jews that identify as part of this community.
While in Tel Aviv, on Friday, these participants had the chance to join the largest LGBTQ Pride parade in the Middle East.
Gidi Mark, the CEO of Birthright Israel, told The Jerusalem Post
that “this summer over 300 Birthright Participants will march together in the Tel Aviv Pride Parade – indeed a source of pride for all of us, as a program which brings young Jewish adults from the diaspora closer to Israel."
sat down with one group Thursday evening to ask how and why they chose this specific trip.
Zach Wolfsenson said, “I thought it would be a really good opportunity to take a further step and increase my capacity to bond with peers in terms of our religion and also in terms of our sexuality in a way. Not the same clearly, but we all come from very similar situations and difficulties... It’s a way for me to enter a completely new, foreign place and make a lot of new friends and connect on this sort of thing.”
Ariel Berry is currently leading his third Birthright group as a staffer. Ariel, who identifies as gay and non-binary, was raised in a very atheist household but is now extremely traditional and wants young Jews struggling with their identity - whether it be their sexuality or their gender - to know: “I want to show [the participants]... that they can find a way to collaborate their two identities - being Jewish and queer - you don’t have to choose one or the other and sacrifice part of yourself.”
Another participant, Pinchas Siegal from Texas, said that while his immediate family is very supportive, he has not seen his mother’s side of the family since he came out as trans-masculine at the age of 16.
Siegal said he decided to come on birthright because “I don’t consider myself a religious person, but I’m very passionate about the Jewish identity and I’m very interested in the culture and in the religious ideals, even if I’m not religious myself.”
He also commented on the LGBTQ culture in Tel Aviv, “ I have so much PTSD from public displays of affection that I hate it and can’t do it... because people would yell at me but I love seeing it and whenever I see it, I always think ‘wow y’all can do that! That’s crazy?’ And I was really happy about that.”
Each year, hundreds of thousands of people line the streets. Gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or straight to march for the rights of those living in Israel without equal rights.
This year the theme of the march is “The LGBTQ Struggle Continues” and is asking people to use the hashtag “Outlaw” when posting about Pride Month here in Israel.
And it’s not just LBGTQ groups traveling around Israel this month, you may have noticed many groups of young people walking around the streets of Israel with landyards around their necks. That’s because it is the height of Birthright season.
Over the last 19 years, over 700,000 participants have come to visit Israel from 68 different countries, according to Birthright. Just this summer, Birthright Israel says they expect to see about 32,000 18-36 year-olds participants arrive in Israel.
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