World Pride members tour Knesset after months of protests

Following months of fiery debates, participants in the World Pride event in Jerusalem were allowed to take their tour of the Knesset Monday at the invitation of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. More than 50 Israeli participants in World Pride took part in the committee meeting, which discussed ways in which the government could improve conditions of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Israel. For the past several months, organizations have protested the World Pride event, and focused much of their attention on the group's visit to the Knesset. During a meeting of the Knesset's Committee on the Interior last month, MKs were told that bringing LGBT representatives to the Knesset was tantamount to "acknowledging their position on homosexual issues." "As protectors of morality and family values, we feel it is inappropriate for this group to visit the Knesset," said anti-World Pride organizer Shifra Hoffman. Along with more than a dozen others, Hoffman protested the LGBT representatives outside the Knesset Monday. "These groups are trying to get young people who aren't sure about their sexuality to gravitate towards homosexuality," said Hoffman. She added that her group believed that there was a correlation between the Jewish people not following the rules of the Torah and the war in the North. "The Jewish people are failing to go in the ways of the Torah and they are losing their divine protection," said Hoffman. "When we go against the Torah Law we suffer." In the Committee, LGBT youths told MKs Shelly Yacimovich (Labor), Dov Henin (Hadash), and Ran Cohen (Meretz) that the government was failing to provide adequate health and emotional support networks for youths. "For many of us, there is so little support in our school and home networks that we withdraw to the Open House, or other gay rights organizations," said one Jerusalem resident who identified himself as Tal. "We don't want to withdraw from society, but we feel we have very little choice." While representatives of the Education and Health Ministries spoke of plans for increased support networks in high schools, they acknowledged that progress was being made slowly and that there was little political support for the added funds needed for such programs. "I am sure that there are MKs who are in the closet, not in the sense that they are homosexuals, but in the sense that they don't realize how much the issues you have raised today affect their constituency," said Yacimovich.