These last few days since I’ve started working here have been absolutely exciting in so many ways. To backtrack a little; I’m Ayelet and I just started interning here two days ago as part of a program from my school, Smith College in Massachusetts and will be here in Jerusalem for the next two months. I’m a Study of Women and Gender major with a concentration in Queer Studies and a minor in Jewish Studies, so working for Open House is definitely right up my alley.
Now, while I’ve spent these last few days getting acquainted with what Open House does and what I’ll be doing, I was definitely not expecting to be able to go the Knesset on my second day here, but, that was exactly what I ended up doing. There, I was privileged to attend the conference on LGBT youth and education. I have sort of a unique situation since I was born in Israel but have spent the bulk of my life in the United States, and while I am very familiar with the state of these issues in the US, I am much less so when it comes to the issues here in Israel. From that standpoint, it was very interesting to compare the relevant issues between the two. For one, I’m not sure such a forum could even exist in the American Congress. Even though there are definitely some senators and representatives who would support it happening, LGBT issues, especially those pertaining to youth, are not exactly given priority in Congress, so just seeing them discussed in the Knesset was in a way, very unexpected.
I also found it very interesting to hear what a variety of different people, from Knesset members to the staff of various organizations, had to say about these issues. On one hand, a lot of what was described is very similar to those encountered by LGBT youth in the United States – homophobia in schools, fears about coming out, stereotypes. Still, a lot of the rhetoric focused on how while Israel is often perceived as a paradise for LGBT people, this only masks many of the problems that youth face – something that I’m not really sure could be said about the US.
All in all, it was a fascinating discussion and it’s still hard to believe that I had the opportunity to attend it on my second day here. In many ways, it served as both a good introduction to the state of LGBT issues and a validation of why the work done at Open House is so necessary. I look forward to continuing this blog and sharing my experiences while working here!-Ayelet