Extreme lack of respect shown at Jerusalem City Council meeting

The following letter was distributed by Jerusalem Open House on Feb 6 2012 (Melbourne time).  For some background on this story see “Jerusalem gay and lesbian center to receive municipality funding” from Dec 12 2011.

Dear Friend,

As the year progresses and in an attempt to portray my personal experiences to our community members, I would like to tell you about a very memorable meeting that I sat in on this past week.

Zachary Cohen
Development Director

As I am sure you are aware, for years the Jerusalem Open House has been fighting the municipality of Jerusalem to provide funding to the LGBTQ community of Jerusalem. This has been a long battle that we hoped would end justly when the Supreme Court of Israel gave the decision that the JOH must be treated equally to other community centers. Unfortunately that ruling has not ended the discrimination and the subsequent legal battle, as we are continually forced into court to demand our equality.

The saga with the municipality of Jerusalem continues as city hall does everything in its power to deny funding to the LGBTQ community. I am very well informed on this issue and have heard stories of the giggling and snickering that takes place during City Council meetings. On Thursday of last week however, I was present for the first time in such a meeting. This was supposed to be a short ordeal in which the mayor requested to make a small change in the criteria used to determine which organization will receive funding in the upcoming year. Unfortunately, the new criteria are extremely problematic, and were created in a way to significantly reduce the funding for the JOH. The change the mayor was intending to introduce would benefit the JOH. The point that I wish to highlight is the way that the meeting was held and the manner in which city council members behaved.

I truly could not believe my eyes. Elected officials were screaming on the top of their lungs, to the point that I could not even understand the words that they were screaming. As the “discussion” continued, shouts and yelling came from around the table. The amount of hatred that was found in the room was bubbling over in a fury. It was an overwhelming experience, and one that I think is important to share with our community members around the world.

It was petrifying to come to the understanding that this was the manner that these decisions are being made. On the other hand, it only reinforced how important it is that the JOH is here to combat such blatant homophobia. This was truly a shocking experience to see the degree in which people were visibly agitated and fighting this with everything they have. The issue was only resolved when the mayor turned off the microphones of the city council members and forced a vote. Despite the fact that their microphones were turned off, they could still be heard screaming. It was truly not to be believed. The change we were hoping would occur was eventually passed, but not without a frightening display along the way.

We appreciate your support as we continue to fight for equality and justice for the LGBTQ community of Jerusalem.

Sincerely,
Zachary Cohen

Zachary Cohen | Development Director
the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance
tel: 972.72.2117298 | fax: 972.2.6253192 | development@joh.org.il
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