Being one of the organizers of Tel Aviv’s first ever global LGBT leaders conference, Chen Arieli of the Aguda, Israel’s National LGBT Task Force, thinks it’s only natural that an international LGBT conference should take place in Tel Aviv. “Israel is an important player in the global LGBT fight. We’re a young country that marks 40 years of community struggle and major achievements,” Chen says. “The complexity, the melting pot, the religious influence- Israelis have a lot to contribute to the global discussion and also a lot to learn from interactions with LGBT leaders from around the world.”
Chen just came back from the US in February, after a series of meetings she had with LGBT community representatives in Chicago, Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Seattle, tackling the hot topics today in Israeli lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy.
“When you look at the community in Israel and its achievements, despite all the complexities, there are a lot of questions and curiosity,” Chen says. “You have to remember that in some aspects, Israel had been ahead of the United States in dealing with LGBT issues, for example, the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ policy. And so any discussion on issues like this raises a broad discussion on several levels.”
“The understanding that the system of government in Israel is different and how the LGBT community has worked through in a reality affected by the religious sector and the unstable security situation is also interesting to the Americans," Chen adds. "Of course, the question of occupation is also raised naturally in the discussions with American communities, mostly in terms of human rights as part of the struggle for LGBT rights.”
Just like the 40 Years in the Wilderness of the Israelites who went from bondage to freedom in biblical times, during the ’40 Years of Pride’ of the LGBT community in Israel, major changes have happened in the freedom and equality of LGBT people. “Indeed the LGBT community in Israel has significant achievements, but only through personal struggles,” explains Arieli. “Currently there’s still no legislation that clearly recognizes equal rights for LGBT people. One of the main goals of the Aguda now is to get legal recognition not only through the courts, but also in the country's statute books. LGBT legislation means substantial recognition, and this is a major struggle we in the Aguda are leading .”
According to the 40 Years of Pride organizers, the goal of the conference, taking place June 9-11 in Tel Aviv, is to create a major international forum that allows the exchange of ideas, mutual learning and the promotion of common interests. “Anyone who calls herself an activist in these issues will find great interest in the conference, because it gives a fascinating discourse and places mutual question marks,” Chen concludes. “The struggle for LGBT rights is a global struggle, and the US and Israel are both dominant players in it, and even the dialogue in the context of the community in Israel is always a mirror of the international view.”40 Years of Pride: A Global Conference for LGBT Leaders, 9-11 of June, Royal Beach Hotel, Tel Aviv