The Knesset held its first-ever LGBT rights day on Tuesday, where will be lectures speaking about the situation of the community in Israel are being held. This is on the heels of a report which shows that the amount of instances of harassment of the LGBT community in Israel has actually gone up.
According to the report, put out by the LGBT association, in 2015 there were 256 complaints of harassment in reported to the association, a 54 percent increase from 2014, which had 140 complaints.
Twenty-nine percent of the complaints dealt with public displays of homophobia and 14 percent concerned homophobia in the media (highlighting a recent homophobic song on a TV singing competition that was met with praise by the judges).
Thirteen percent of incidents occurred on school grounds, 12 percent as a customer trying to get service, 7 percent at the workplace, 6 percent in the IDF. Six percent were harassed by family, and 6 percent at hospitals. Only 3 percent of reported harassment came from police and 3 percent came from conflicts within the community. A single percent fell under the category of "other."
According to Knesset Member Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union), approval of the request to recognize the community at the Knesset was made possible by MKs Yael Germana (Yesh Atid) and Michal Rozin (Meretz), who are co-chairwomen of the Knesset Gay Lobby, along with MK Sharen Haskel (Likud). "I'm very excited," MK Michaeli said.
MK Amir Ohana (Likud), who recently entered the Knesset after Silvan Shalom's retirement, and is openly gay himself, also expressed enthusiasm. "I am happy and thank Merav and her friends in the LGBT caucus for their initiative and promotion of this day," he said. "It is a day that shows what we have done in Israel regarding LGBT rights, and gives perspective as to where we stand on this issue in relation to the rest of the world. Of course, we still have a lot to work, and I hope that we will be able to make maximum efforts to succeed."
Regarding the participation of ultra-Orthodox politicians Tuesday's celebrations, Ohana said he believes that "change is occurring at all levels, even with them. If in the past we heard them say things like 'we will deal with them (the LGBT community) like we deal with bird flu,' today, there is a different discussion. We still aren't on the same page,and there are difficulties within the coalition regarding pro-LGBT legislation. But I'm certain that it's a question not of if, but of when. As in the struggle of African-Americans for freedom and equality, and as in women's struggle for rights, we will continue and eventually arrive at the final destination - equality and freedom for all."
Michaeli said that "the fight is completely political. The position of the LGBT community today in Israel has not been reached because of the brave struggles of various gay and lesbian activists, but by legislative and legal rulings. Israeli law is still discriminatory against the LGBT community, and we will be talking about that today at the conference.
"I'm sorry to say that the government has taken unenlightened positions, and is therefore not ready to do what Amir Ohana said – to lead the fight for basic equality and freedom which every man and woman is entitled to, even if their sexual orientation is different from what you believe it should be. It is an unenlightened government that truly chooses the wrong side,"said MK Michaeli.
Ohana said in response: "Unfortunately, what Merav doesn't say is that if they had the opportunity, they (Zionist Union) would form a coalition with exactly the same people, and they also would be dependent on these people and forced to consider their right to a veto. Its sad but its true."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his own comment. “I asked to come to say one sentence to those in the community to mark the Pride community’s rights day," he said. "The sentence is simple: Every person was created in God’s image. This is the idea that was brought to community a thousand years ago by our people and this is also the principle that must direct our lives every day.”