The USA Ambassador Does it Again!
His Excellency Ambassador Dan Shapiro and his wife Ms. Julie Fisher outdid themselves at a reception they hosted at the embassy residence in Herzlia Pituach on Wednesday night. The occasion was the visit to Israel of the LGBTQ Mission arranged by the Jewish Federations of North America. Some 110 members of the LGBTQ community came to see the reality of Israel, to have a good time, and then to go home with their own tangible and factual impressions. The Ambassadorial couple opened their home to welcome the visitors and give them an opportunity to meet and socialize with their Israeli counterparts.
This is not the first (and probably not the last) time that the US embassy in Israel has kicked in to promote recognition and acceptance of the American and Israeli LGBTQ communities (and others, worldwide). At one similar event, a year ago, the Ambassador hosted a reception to honor Randy Berry, special envoy of the US State Department to the LGBTQ community who was visiting Israel. Not only are Ambassador Shapiro and his wife personally in favor of equality and liberty for the community, it is State Department policy of the present USA administration.
Ms. Fisher opened the formalities with a short welcome, adding her grateful thanks to all the people who worked hard to make the event such a success. She then called on her husband to address the guests. Ambassador Shapiro gave a moving speech in which he emphasized the importance of the gay pride events (this week in Israel) celebrating “… pride, tolerance, equality and acceptance … and the understanding that liberty and fundamental equal rights include the LGBTQ community. Gay rights are human rights”. He also made special mention of – and welcomed – Knesset member Michal Rozin and US Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (visiting from South Florida).
Following was a brief recorded video message from special envoy Ambassador Randy Berry, who sent warm regards and greetings to the crowd, recalling fondly his last visit to Israel, just before the United States Supreme Court declared that the right to marry, whether for same-sex or “mixed” couples, must be available to all. A historic judgement.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen was warmly welcomed to the podium and made a very poignant speech. The stress was on the equality to which all sectors of all communities are entitled. (She happens to be Cuban-born, and reached the USA as a young girl in 1960.) “Ambassador Shapiro is the voice of the USA in Israel, a voice that embraces our shared values of democracy and freedom”. She also opened her heart and told the gathering of her son, a transgendered man. “My husband and I love him, whether as a woman or a man. We want to be there for our children’s happiness, so that they can live contented authentic lives”. Her sobering words brought reality to the struggles that LGBTQ communities worldwide still face.
Also addressing the gathering was Stuart Kurlander, the mover and shaker behind the JFNA mission to Israel. He thanked his friends, Ambassador Shapiro and Julie Fisher for their warm hearted support and for hosting the lovely event; and Ms. Ros-Lehtinen for her ongoing support of the State of Israel. “Our mission includes a broad mix of people from a broad range of fields …. [Here in Israel] we have created bonds that we know will last well into the future”.
The light-hearted atmosphere was enhanced by the wonderful weather and the generous buffet dinner, affording the guests the opportunity to mingle, greet old friends and make new ones.
The USA and its Ambassador to Israel are fine examples that other countries – especially Israel’s neighbors – would do well to follow. One day, maybe …
Photo credit: "David Azagury, U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv"