President Rivlin meets with Israel Gay Youth organization as part of Pride celebrations
President Rivlin this morning (Wednesday), welcomed to the President’s Residence members of IGY the Israeli Gay Youth (IGY) organization as part of celebrations around Pride Month. At the beginning of the meeting the Director of the IGY, Mandy Michaeli, about the organization, which operates more than 60 groups for LGBT youth, with the participation of over 7,000 members. She said, “I want to thank you for this historic meeting, the first of its kind between representatives of the gay community and the President’s office. Sitting on the margins, we have had the opportunity to view society from a different perspective, and a critical eye, and enable all groups, equally, all colors of the Israeli rainbow, to learn about what we have in common and what makes us different.”
Yaniv Weitzman, one of the movement’s founders and chairman of the leadership committee, said that the previous evening, the organization had celebrated 40 years of activity for the sake of the rights of the individual, and that there was a sense within the organization that the time had come to expand its operations and to be more active in the periphery.
Itai Tzemach, aged 18 from Tel Aviv, spoke to the President about the long process he had been through, and his decision to work as a counselor as part of a year of service with the organization. He said, “It took me many years to come out as gay, despite that I knew I was gay for many years and had told my parents. The process I will in fact only finish this evening when I tell those of my friends who still don’t know. IGY helped me with this process, and I wanted to give a year of service, in order to give back to the youth who need the same help, especially in the periphery, where there are those who need support which is still lacking. For example, in schools, the word ‘homo’ is used as a painful and hurtful curse - as I well remember. I saw this as an attack on me, and a disregarding of my identity, even when it was not directed at me. The teachers ignored it, and did not deal with the problem.”
The President welcomed, and congratulated the group, in the first visit of its kind to the President’s Office. He said, “Twenty-two years ago I had the honor of welcoming the first delegation of the gay community to the Knesset. Today I have the honor of receiving you for the first time at the President’s Residence.”
The President went on to ask if there was tension within the community of those who had chosen not to be openly gay.
Gal Ohovsky, one of the participating members from the IGY organization said, “Individuals are not obligated to come out, and this should be their free choice. There is a lack of patience for those who would have the ability to represent the gay community proudly, people of influence, who rely on the services and institutions of the community, but choose not to make public their sexuality, and give back to the community.”
Noga, the group’s spokesperson added, “In the organization, there is no obligation to come out. The discussions around coming out are designed to provide support for the youth members, and not to apply pressure. We clarify the importance of doing this at the right time.”
President Reuven Rivlin meets with gay youths at his residence in Jerusalem.
credit: Mark NEYMAN / GPO