The Blog of the Jerusalem Open House

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Located on 1 Horkanus street, Videopub is an eclectic little venue in the heart of Jerusalem that offers a small dance room, rooftop and excellent service by one bartender who also acts as the dj for the night. The atmosphere and people are what makes up for the cosy space; it’s a place for the gays, the lesbians, the bisexuals, trans-identifying, drag king & queens, the religious & non-religious, the queers, the questioning and always the curious. You’ll have a place where the bartender is welcoming and energetic that tends to your desires and needs (purely all musical and thirst quenching related, the rest is up to you), you’ll have a place that is accepting, understanding and ready to dance their head off while offering a place just for you to do the same. The great thing about Videopub is that it doesn’t have to be so crazy, the club also offers movie nights on the quieter days (which are usually Sundays through to Wednesdays) as well as special events when its time to get the glitter out. Best nights to go if you want to party are Thursdays and Saturdays, but lets be honest every night is always a party night for the LGBTQI community!

You’ll be wanting to go back for more!!


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The Holy Rainbow

Any political march contains masses of people, signs, chants, a reason for marching and an audience. A Pride March in Jerusalem, however containing all those factors, also consists of unity, happiness and passion. The Pride March in Jerusalem occurs every year at the end of July since 2002; it is a celebration, a protest, and an overall way to demonstrate that the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) community in Jerusalem and Israel is proud and ready to stand up for their rights in the political capital of Israel. They are ready to fight against homophobia, inequality and infringements put upon their human rights such as freedom of speech as well as for a democratic society.


The Pride March is organized and run by Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (JOH), an LGBTQI grassroots activist community centre. The JOH provides on a daily basis services and support to all LGBTQI individuals in Jerusalem and its surrounding communities whilst working to secure LGBTQI rights within Israeli society. The common goals of the JOH are that of tolerance and mutual support both within the LGBTQI community and more specifically amongst the wider community.


The LGBTQI community has been severely challenged from ultra-conservatives and the city council due to the special religious foundation the city is built on. These challenges have led to the LGBTQI community being harassed and violently abused by such individuals who have taken it upon themselves to act like an unintelligent bigot whereby a higher being told him to do so. The violent abuse and harassment that occurs consists of being spat on; stink bombs as well as dirty diapers being hurled at the LGBTQI community; extremely offensive signs stating the community has AIDS and signs stating that they will cause an earthquake, because earthquakes aren’t at all caused by tectonic plates shifting.


I’m all for respecting someone’s individual beliefs whether it stems from their religion or just their own personal perspective, what I cant respect or understand is when one decides to judge and condemn someone because they don’t share the same beliefs. I have been traveling for almost four months and can’t fathom the fact that we are in the 21st Century and LGBTQI rights are still an issue that individuals feel they need to oppress and are apprehensive about. What is also confronting is realising that democracy is still a relevant theme that isn’t being encouraged amongst all societies and governments around the world including Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a conservative city and the umbrella issues surrounding freedom of speech, sexuality and democracy are still current. Please note when I mention sexuality it doesn’t just focus on sexual orientation but any individual who expresses their sexuality be it through their political views, dress sense or their preferences and lifestyle.


This hostility present in Jerusalem that I learnt about as well as first-hand witnessed eventually escalated in June of 2005, during the Jerusalem Pride March where an ultra-Orthodox male stabbed three individuals who were participating within the march. What needs to be highlighted here is leading up to the march there were constant challenges faced by the LGBTQI community and the Jerusalem Open House in order to organize the Pride March. I want to bring to the forefront these challenges that arose from the then City Council and the police as to present the issue of the lawsuit that followed which was taken out against both the City Council and Jerusalem Police by one of the victims of the stabbing. In reaction to the lawsuit, the City Council and Jerusalem Police has decided to sue the Jerusalem Open House as third party involvement of the negligence and stabbing that occurred in June 2005.


The actions of the City Council today are evidence that although there are different members to that of the council in 2005, this lawsuit is implicating the rights of freedom of speech, equality and the right to protest. Regardless of sexuality, stripping away a democratic society where all individuals are entitled to think and speak their mind, it becomes a crippling system in which only some members of society are allowed to do so and speak for others that may not value the same beliefs or worse propose beliefs that stifle ones being. An article posted in an Israeli website Ynet (2014) reports city council stating that “the victim is at fault for his own attack”, this is a clear example of that stifling and crippling society where members are silenced based on their identity.


This restrictive, ignorant and disrespectful mentality is why something needs to be brought to the attention of all members of society.




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Jerusalem is Covered in Rainbows

This morning, I looked up to find a rainbow flag fluttering above a juice bar and a grocery store, hanging in the middle of the street. These flags have been posted all over the city, signifying the approach of Jerusalem’s annual Pride Parade. We gather tomorrow at 5pm in Independence Park.

Rainbow flags used to be posted the day of Pride, and snatched down as the parade marched across the city. This year, the Jerusalem municipality granted our request to raise the flags a day before the parade so the entire city will know that pride is coming.

Rainbow flags have appeared throughout history and geography to represent inclusiveness and diversity. As we celebrate gay pride tomorrow, we must keep in mind ourselves and our struggles, but also the people and struggles that are often forced into the margins. 

For so many, Jerusalem is an incredibly holy place. These little glimmers of pride around the city remind us that bigotry cannot destroy Jerusalem’s sanctity.

Tomorrow, come march with us to demand equality and justice from the Knesset.

Afterwards, take your activism and charitable work beyond pride. Continue working to make  Jerusalem a safe place not only for people of all genders and sexual identities, but for people of color, people of all religions, and people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Consider your communities, consider your assets, consider your skills, and go where you are needed.


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Homophobic Pashkvilim Return to Jerusalem

This week, a new threat against the Jerusalem queer community took a familiar form. Ultra Orthodox Jewish communities throughout Israel and the diapsora often shun internet and television, and instead communicate through pashkvilim (singular: pashkvil), large posters plastered in public spaces. When the JOH hosted the LGBT festival World Pride in 2006, homophobic pashkvilim appeared all over the city.

This week, a new pashvkil appeared, directing hate towards the approaching annual Pride Parade. Its appearance coincided with the somber Jewish holy day of Tisha Be’av, that commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. In this Op Ed in the Jerusalem Post, JOH director Elinor Sidi describes the fundamental incompatibility between the hatred of homophobia and the tenets of Judaism. Read it here:


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Ashdod debuts Pride, June 21 2013

This past Friday, I took an early morning bus from Jerusalem to the Biblical city of Ashdod, which borders the Mediterranean Sea. I disembarked the bus feeling nervous: I was alone, my phone had died and Ashdod has a sizeable conservative population who tend to be unsupportive of gay rights. I did not expect the fierce, naked and glittery antics I had become accustomed to at D.C. Pride. I expected the atmosphere of a protest. I expected tension between the queer community in Ashdod and its opponents.

As I approached the marchers, I found that the Ashdod pride parade was far more joyous and celebratory than I anticipated. I heard there was a small counter protest, but I didn’t really notice. I noticed colorful banners, bathing suits, singing, marching, kissing and laughter. Check out some of the lovely pictures!



Openly gay Knesset Member Nitzan Horowitz with Betty Ezri and Dana Lazar at the Jerusalem Open House table.


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maya felmanHey everyone! My name is Maya and I began my summer internship at the Jerusalem Open House yesterday. In September I will embark on my fourth year at Bryn Mawr, a small women’s college outside of Philadelphia. I am an English major, which means I spent most of my time poring over critical thought, queer theory, poetry, and Victorian novels, a fact that both intrigues and horrifies my Indian-Jewish family.

My decision to major in English literature is inextricable from my passion for human rights. For me, literature is about empathy and human connection. I was drawn to Bryn Mawr because of its commitment to nurturing communities. The campus community, the feminist community, the writing community and the Jewish community all thrive at Bryn Mawr and I am so thankful to be a part of them.

The sense of community is also what drew me to the Jerusalem Open House. My friend Maiya interned at the JOH last summer and spoke enthusiastically about the connections she made here. The JOH offers many direct support services and leads initiatives for social change, but it also serves as a community center. I have only been here one day, and am already so delighted by the warmth and camaraderie I have found. Yesterday, we ate lunch family style, munching on bourekas – fried pastries – while crowded around a single table. I spent a couple hours painting colorful flowers on the wall in the youth room to make it more “chaimish” – or “homey.”

However, I am most excited about the opportunity to seriously engage with human rights issues with the JOH. I will be contributing to a number of different projects, including the Jerusalem Pride Parade, Jewish outreach and a program for rabbis participating in an international torah study seminar. On Friday, I will attend the first ever Pride Parade in Ashdod, a rather conservative city to the west of Jerusalem. I will write another entry chronicling experiences there!


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Update from The Intern, My Experience So Far!

Hey Everyone, its been a while!

so much has happened since my last post, sadly i haven’t gotten to post much, so here is  a little update of my experience at the Open House and living in Jerusalem.

So there has been a lot of cool events happening at the JOH, and i was privileged to be a part of them. First off we had Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem Basketball team come to the Open House to give support for the work we do, and we went out to lunch together, it was really great to see a sports team show such support. check out some photos of the event:


The next project I worked on was reviving the English Speakers Group. So far we have had a great turnout at our meetings and we have had some great dialogues  and discussions and we all went out for dinner and a drink as well. The group is really coming together and expanding nicely so free to join the group Here:

Another project i got to work on was Renowned Gay orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg’s Book Tour and panel event. The event was a great success with a prestigious panel featuring Rabbi Ron Yosef of “HOD” (a gay Daati organization), Sarah Weil (Founder of “Women’s Gathering) and Renana Leviana (Bat-Kol, Lesbian Group). The topic was

From Toleration to Integration
(and maybe even Celebration)

how can we move from simply accepting ourselves
as an unfortunate reality, to celebrating ourselves
as special creations of God


This project was a great learning experience for me, i got to explore Jerusalem while posting signs for the event, met some really great people before and at the event, and it was overall a great success, with over 50 people attending.

Another event i got to work on was “the Interfaith Dialogue on the topic of Homosexuality”.
We were joined by special guest Michael Toumayan of the HRC’s (Human Rights Campaign) Religion and Faith program in Washington D.C., who lead the meaningful discussion.

Aside for my activities in the Open House, i have gotten to know and meet many people from Jerusalem’s small but amazing LGBT community. I met many Havruta (the prominent Daati Gay Community) members, who have all been like family, and got to experience the nightlife here and make new friends. I also attended the”Shabbat Kehilah” which took place in Nachsholim which was hosted by Zehorit Sorek of the “Pride Minyan” in Tel Aviv, which was a wonderful weekend with so many nice people from the LGBT community.

I have also gotten to work with the amazing Sarah Weil of the “Women’s Gathering” a great social group that hosts sophisticated events for the Queer community. I am also a moderator on a new page for LGBT Olim, founded by Roy Freeman of the Tel Aviv ESG. It is a great resource for anyone who has, or is planning on making alyiah:

Aside from my time spent within the LGBT community, it was great to spend Purim, Yom Hashoah,Yom Hazikoron, Yom haatzmaut, and Shavuot here in Jerusalem. The Open House and the wider Queer community had many events and celebrations around these days as well.

There are many more upcoming events and projects that i hope to help with, and i am looking forward to it. Having been here for over 3 months, i really have to say that i have had an amazing experience so far, and thanks to the Jerusalem Open House I have been given many great opportunities, met so many amazing people, and made many new friends. Jerusalem has a small but vibrant LGBT community and it is only growing and expanding. Every community takes time to build itself up, and from what i have seen LGBT Jerusalem is doing a great job!

Until next Time,




English Speakers Group:

Womens Gathering:

LGBT Olim:




Pride Minyan:

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Hello From The New intern!

Hey everyone, I’m Marty the new intern at the Jerusalem Open house.

I am here from NY on a 5 month internship program, and so far its been amazing. Everyone at the JOH has been really welcoming and there is a great sense of community within the LGBT circles in Jerusalem. The community here is small as say compared to Tel aviv, but there is a real sense of family that is unique to the Jerusalem lgbt scene. There is a great mix of people within the community ranging from religious to secular and everything in between, and its really refreshing.

While i am here i hope to help and work on as many projects as possible to help out the community. The first thing i am working on is restarting the “English Speakers Group” at the JOH, so feel free to join our Facebook group and page below for all the latest updates and events. I will also be updating this blog constantly with current events and topics from around Jerusalem.

I am looking forward to this great experience, and hopefully i will be able to contribute to this wonderful community!

Until Next Time,



English Speakers Group Links:

FB Group:

FB Page:



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Jerusalem is Proud to Present…

Happy Hanukkah everyone! While Zach has been in the US for the past few weeks meeting with some American friends of the JOH, I have been working on several projects on my own. One has been reaching out to various US campus Hillels about viewing the movie “Jerusalem is Proud to Present.” This movie focuses on the work done by the JOH, specifically with the 2006 World Pride Festival. I think that this is a great opportunity for American students and campus community members to get an idea of the struggles an organization like JOH  faces as well as the community and support it provides for many in Jerusalem. Here is some information about the movie for anyone interested: