(photo credit: Courtesy)
Citing the "ongoing struggle" homosexuals face in areas outside of Tel Aviv, Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz, the second openly gay elected Knesset member, was one of several speakers who met with 50 people at the Gay Community Center in Tel Aviv on Thursday to discuss the role and envolvement of gay rights and activism in Israel as part of the five-day program iPride, culminating in Tel Aviv's Gay Pride Parade next Friday.
"The main problem is that most of the gay rights achievements have been won in courts, not through lawâ€¦ Court rulings can be reversed, which is why it's so important to establish gay rights in the legislation," explained Horowitz.
As Tel Aviv prepares to celebrate its centennial, the gay pride parade is included as part of the celebration. "I feel that there has been a change. We are part of mainstream [society]," said Jonathan Danilowitz, a former El-Al flight attendant.
He filed a complaint with the Labor District Court in 1989 to procure an equal right for his then partner of 10 years to receive free flight tickets.
"I felt an outrageous discrimination against me as a gay man," Danilowitz told The Jerusalem Post. "I wasn't going to put up with it and now feel a sense of pride."
The court ruled in his favor, marking an Israeli precedent granting gay rights. Equality under law and inheritance rights for gay couples also were approved during the same period.
After finding their voice and gaining new rights, the GLBT community had another sector of life to face - the army. But unlike other militarized countries, homosexual members of the army do not face discrimination from the Israel Defense Force, according to Major Yoni Schoenfeld.
"If in America the policy is 'Don't ask, don't tell," he said. "Then in Israel, it's 'You can tell, but we just don't care.'"
The situation for homosexuals in the army has changed over the past 15 years, where members of the GLBT community can now serve openly, Schoenfeld said, adding that there was "no change in the relationship" once he told friends in his combat unit he was gay.
Mike Hamel, of The Aguda, noted that the policy of the IDF is "completely gay friendly and accepting," but its stance and the "actual relationship to what's in the field" are different. The army was a reflection of society, he added, which was not always accepting.