President Reuven Rivlin and his wife, Nechama, arrived Thursday for a historic meeting with leaders of the LGBT community at Tel Aviv's LGBT Center in Meir Garden, marking eight years since the deadly LGBT terrorist attack that took the lives of Nir Katz and Liz Trubishi. LGBT Taskforce Chairperson Chen Arieli, LGBT Center Dir. Gen. Itay Arad-Pinkas and other leaders of the gay community were present and discussed the burning issues facing members of the community at present.
As part of preparations for the festive visit, Meir Garden was decorated with Israeli flags and pride flags. President Rivlin received applause from the surprised visitors upon his arriva. He thanked them and waved back.
"I am not creating any precedence here," said Rivlin during his meeting with representatives of the gay community. "When I was elected Speaker of the Knesset, I invited representatives from the community to the Knesset to meet and discuss. The gay community is an inseparable part of Israeli society in all its aspects. What a long way we have come since the 1980s."
The president spoke about how members of the community have to face many challenges and disagreements. "We must not, God forbid, give up. There are disagreements that bind all of society, and we must fight them, for the way our society will be. Each according to their beliefs. We must look at our country and fight together without despairing."
Rivlin also stressed the importance of discourse. "Let's discuss the matter, let's discuss the dispute out of mutual respect for one another."
Responding to recent government decision to shut out same-sex families from becoming adoptive parents, Rivlin said, "I hope that State of Israel and its institutions will know how to act responsibly in decision-making and in a way that does not delegitimize or deny any population."
Rivlin concluded his statement by saying, "A person's preference is their own, from birth. We are all human and when we love, we love."
Tel Aviv-Jaffa Mayor Ron Huldai was also present at the event, together with his wife Yael. Mayor Huldai said that "the proud center we established in Tel Aviv-Jaffa is the first urban center of its kind in the world. Its establishment was not easy. Some said and still say that there is no need for it, but as long as there is discrimination, there is a need."
Huldai added that "it is not enough to describe yourself as a believer in equal rights or to say that you support LGBT rights. We have to put policy into practice and not just talk. Unfortunately, we are far from saying that there is equality in practice. Tel Aviv-Jaffa, the first Hebrew city, has had a leading role on the social level, serving as a moral beacon for other Israeli municipalities and overseas authorities. When we inaugurated the LGBT center, I said that I hoped we would reach a day when it would no longer be necessary. I long for the day when this will be the situation in Israel."
Chen Langer, who at the beginning of the week reported that the National Insurance Institute has refused to recognize him as a victim of volunteer-related event, despite being injured at the Barnoar attack, met with the president and told him his story. Rivlin promised to try and help.