הבית הפתוח » Student Rights Law Op Ed | JOH

הבית הפתוח » Student Rights Law Op Ed | JOH.

Student Rights Law Op Ed

The Knesset, Israel’s governing body, has introduced a crucial amendment to the existing Student Rights Law. On Sunday, June 26 2013, a coalition led by Knesset member Dov Khenin proposed to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the education system.

The Student Rights Law, originally drafted to ensure the rights of those in the education system, currently stipulates that it is a criminal offense to discriminate against a student on the basis of religion, socio-economic background or political ideology. Dov Khenin’s coalition seeks to add sexual orientation and gender to the list of protected identities, citing figures that show the education system in Israel is rife with instances of heterosexism and transphobia.

The proposed bill addresses an important and difficult problem facing Israel. Queer youth find their identities condemned by a large part of Israeli society. Here, a Knesset Member can openly assert that people are homosexual because they were abused as children. The top rated Israeli reality show “Big Brother” features a violent contestant who recently aimed venomous anti-lesbian comments at another contestant. Currently, the Israeli queer community is mourning the loss of two of its members to a hate crime in Tel Aviv.

The effect of this hatred is immediate and unavoidable. Queer youth are vulnerable to damaging attacks that can lead to anxiety, depression, and suicide, as both Israeli and worldwide research indicates. An Israeli study reveals that half of queer youths are exposed to anti-queer verbal violence, a quarter has been sexually harassed at school, and ten percent has been subjected to physical attacks. Additionally, many youth report that the teachers do not condemn verbal violence and slurs, and a quarter of youths have had homophobic and transphobic remarks hurled at them by teachers themselves.

The proposed amendment is crucial to empowering queer youth. It ensures that schools are legally obligated to disown the warped messages about gender identity and sexual orientation that are imparted to youth via society and the media. It promotes the values of respect, tolerance and human dignity in the realm of education. Significantly, this bill will affect all youth in the education system, including those who are often relegated to the periphery in the queer community.

In recent years, privileged members of the queer community have introduced bills which address their own needs while ignoring and sometimes trampling the interests of disempowered subpopulations within our community.

Powers in the Knesset prevent members from supporting the queer community fully, and members often carefully choose which measures to support.  We fear that members of Knesset would be more inclined to vote for heavily promoted bills like same-sex marriage that would mark them as progressive and socially just, while ignoring the more marginal and highly localized bill proposals which would probably not grant them the same kind of glory.

Thus, it is absolutely necessary to support this amendment and to promote it vigorously. This amendment means working towards the safety of queer youth in the education system. It means introducing children to the spirit of respect and human dignity from a younger age. It means progress in the direction of a healthier, more just Israeli society. On Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013, the proposal will be brought for a preliminary vote at the Knesset’s general assembly. We thus call on you to send letters to members of Knesset, asking for their support for this important piece of legislation.

MKs debate at Jerusalem Open House | JPost

MKs debate at Jerusalem Open House | JPost.

A Statement of Monday’s events | Jerusalem Open House

Monday night we held a film screening in preparation for next week’s 10th annual Jerusalem Pride March. The film, ‘Jerusalem is Proud to Present’, documents the preparations surrounding the Jerusalem World Pride in 2006 and the resulting violent riots. Viewers enjoyed a 3-D depiction in which the hatred depicted on the screen was acted out in reality.

A small number of local residents attempted to interrupt the screening. They began shouting at the audience: “perverts”, “our children will not be exposed to your impurity”, “this cannot happen in Jerusalem”, and “don’t screen a movie here about gays.” The event culminated when verbal abuse transformed, as happens all too often, into actual violence. One of them brought a large wooden club from his home and attempted to stop the screening by threatening violence.

CLICK HERE for a news article on the incident.

CLICK HERE for a short clip from that evening. Click on “cc” to see the subtitles in Hebrew and English.

The event was managed by staff and volunteers of the JOH, with both Eitan (chairperson of the board) and I in attendance. Together we acted to minimize contact between participants and protesters, while preventing escalation. Jerusalem police arrived promptly at the scene and acted swiftly to prevent violence. Nobody was hurt physically at the event and today we at the JOH are focusing on healing the mental wounds of those who experienced this trauma. The Jerusalem Open House filed a complaint due to the use of violence and the sole violent person was arrested that night and brought to court the following day. He was later released on house arrest.

In the eve of Tisha B’Av, it seems that the baseless hatred “Sinat Hinam” that once destroyed the city, is still bubbling beneath its pavement and stones. There was no reason to prevent the screening of the film except for baseless hatred: hatred of the owners of the café by its neighbors, hatred of the audience and hatred for the LGBTQ community. It is important be clear: it is permissible to oppose Jerusalem Pride. It is permissible to not like gays, and to even think they are obscene, permissible to protest against the screening of a film, and it is even permissible to say that gays commit suicide by the age of 40, and lesbians are lesbians because they had abortions. The LGBT community is one that values free speech and people are allowed to speak against it. However, the line between legitimate and illegitimate will continue to be drawn by the JOH at violence. This is a clear and unambiguous boundary that cannot be crossed under any circumstance. Monday night we filed a complaint and transferred the matter to the consideration of the police out of commitment to the safety of our community.

Next week we mark a decade of marching in the city of Jerusalem and this March seems more relevant than ever. The long road we have passed in the last decade began with incitement to violence in 2002, with the first Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance. The incitement to violence included the former Mayor Uri Lupolianski, the ancient ritual of Pulsa Denura which placed curses on community activists as well as a bounty on our heads. Agitation reached its peak in 2005 when Yishai Schlissel burst into the march and stabbed three marchers.

Despite the opposition, the annual gay pride parade has become an integral part of the status quo within the city. It seems that the statements of Supreme Court justice, Ayala Procaccia- “It is important these events will become common place and will not provoke riots” – have materialized – at least partially. The parade has become an annual tradition and its cancellation is no longer a pressing question. Jerusalem is no longer burning every time that Pride occurs, even when a violent minority tries (and succeeds) to ignite small riots. These days, when provocateurs try to start violence, it is the police who insist on the continuation of the event. Despite the threats of violence, the event carried on as planned. The movie screening ended successfully. Truly, we came a long way.

Pride in the city will not be affected by the events of Monday night, preparations are underway and will not be stopped. The Open House has led a struggle to demand rights for the LGBTQ community under the principle of non-violence for over a decade and will continue to do so for another decade to come. The parade will proceed as planned next Thursday, the evening of Tu B’Av. In a symbolic act, that we could not plan in advance, an event full of baseless hatred that occurred before Ticha B’Av, will be healed in the tradition of Tikkun Olam. This will occur in an event full of love of the other and respect towards difference on the eve of Tu B’Av. A symbolism that only the city of Jerusalem can create.

I call on all those who value the character of Jerusalem – straight or gay – come and march with us. Our struggle is your struggle too.

Please CLICK HERE to support Jerusalem Pride to ensure that this march for human rights is a success and we are able to come out strongly as a community to make a statement of plurality and acceptance.


Jerusalem Pride – Only 10 Days Left!

There are 10 days left until Jerusalem Pride. Please consider donating 10 times chai today by clicking HERE.

For more information about 2012 Jerusalem Pride, please visit our website.

Thank you for your continual support,

-The Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance

Need your fix of the JOH? Check out this video:

Hello Joh – Meet The Team Of JOH | YouTube.

Jerusalem Pride Comes to You!

Dear Friend,

The Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance is fast approaching, keeping the staff at Jerusalem Open House quite busy. In light of this exciting time, we wanted to reach out to you and let you know about what makes this year’s Pride special. We are celebrating our initiatives on the local, the national and the global sphere.


For the Jerusalem Open House, exposure around Pride helps to more effectively reach out to those struggling with their gender identity and sexual orientation. Many are inspired to leave their oppressive homes, search for accepting communities similar to the one provided by JOH. To learn more about the hustle and bustle surrounding Jerusalem Pride and to support our activities, please click HERE.

National Sphere

The Jerusalem Open House’s hard work to serve the needs of this community, despite extreme religious backlash, pays off in creating a safe community that serves as a strong example for the rest of the nation. To learn more about JOH initiatives on a national scale and to support our work, please click HERE.


Despite our location within the periphery of Israel, Jerusalem can and should continue it leading role within the international movement for gay liberation. To learn more about JOH’s engagement with the global sphere and to help us make a global impact, please click HERE.

Don’t forget, the Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance will be August 2nd. If you are in Israel we would love for you to join us!

Thank you for your continued support; we could not do this without your help.

-Elinor Sidi, Executive Director

Please donate generously HERE.

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.

Zachary Cohen

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

4,000 march for gay rights in the capital | JPost

4,000 march for gay rights in the capital | JPost.