We’re just a few days away from the Twin Cities Pride festival and parade, so it seems fitting the local Jewish community will be celebrating new LGBTQ freedoms from across the ocean. The Israeli military announced late last week its decision to allow same-sex couples to report for reserve duty separately in order to keep parents from leaving their families at the same time. So it should come as no surprise that PlanetRomeo, a worldwide gay connection network, released a gay happiness index last month ranking Israel the seventh best country to live as a gay man.
Support for LGBTQ Jews Weaker in Jerusalem
Rabbinical student Meir Bargeron moved from the Twin Cities to Jerusalem just over two weeks ago to start his education. He said he already feels accepted as a gay man among his peers and other Israelis. “Living here is fantastic, it’s a beautiful place,” he said. “It’s wonderful to be surrounded by so many people that are Jewish.” But it’s a complex situation, he said.
Living in Jerusalem means living around a primarily orthodox community that doesn’t accept the LGBTQ community the way more liberal Jews in Tel Aviv do. Despite laws that treat gay couples and military personnel with the same rights as all citizens, he said Jerusalem approaches the situation with more of a political stance than a social one. “As a gay man living in Jerusalem, I don’t feel this vibrant, positive environment as if I were living in Tel Aviv,” Bargeron said.
Still, the Minnesotan said he feels the same amount of acceptance in Israel as he did here in the Twin Cities — despite PlanetRomeo ranking Minnesota 26th on the list of best cities for gay men in the United States.
In recent years, Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions supporters have criticized Israel’s LGBTQ stance as “pink-washing,” or distracting from other political issues between Israel and the rest of the Middle East. Bargeron said he thinks it’s an unfortunate and inaccurate depiction of gay pride in Israel. “The idea that being able to talk about positive things that are happening to the LGBT people in Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is somehow seen as an attempt to distract from other political issues is really troublesome,” he noted about the lack of rights for the LGBT community in the region. However, the decision to support same-sex couples in the Israeli army comes as a major step in the right direction to support Jews of all genders and sexual orientations.