The Blog of the Jerusalem Open House


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Jerusalem Pride March

The Jerusalem Open House, along with other organizations and individuals from across the country marched on the Knesset on Thursday.  The English Speakers Group took quite a prominent role, holding the banner and balloon arch that lead the parade.  Thankfully it was mostly a non-violent demonstration – though one woman was beaten up on her way to the march when someone learned where she was headed. 

The march was the perfect conclusion to Kati and my summer, a high point after two months of working at the Open House.  I was so proud of this community that an event like the March could happen in Jerusalem. The rally at Gan HaVradim was also very poignant, as we demanded the right to be treated like human beings.  Nir Katz’s mother spoke, along with a member of the Knesset and letters from Tzipi Livni and the minister of education. 

I wish I could write more, but I must catch a plane in Tel Aviv.  This blog will go on haitus until the next coordinator of the English Speakers Group arrives, hopefully in the fall.  Until then, enjoy some pictures from Ma’ariv – the nation’s third largest paper – including one of members of the English Speakers Group at Pride holding the lead banner: http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART2/138/898.html?hp=54&loc=3&tmp=9387


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Pride in Ha’aretz

One of Israel’s largest newspapers – Ha’aretz – ran a story today interviewing the JOH’s executive director Yonatan Gher about Jerusalem Pride and what we hope to accomplish through the march. With Pride this Thursday, it’s good to know that mainstream Israeli media is taking notice.  Find the article from Ha’aretz’s website pasted below:

LGBT activist Yonatan Gher, will marching on the Knesset advance gay rights?

By Liel Kyzer

Yonatan Gher is the director general of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (JOH ), an organization that promotes the welfare of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT ) people in the city. This Thursday, the eighth Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade will be held, nearly one year after the fatal shooting at a gay youth center in Tel Aviv. At the conclusion of Thursday’s parade, participants will file into the Wohl Rose Garden across from the Knesset building.

Yonatan Gher, why did you decide to march on the Knesset this year?

After the attack at the Bar Noar center in Tel Aviv, we put a lot of thought into how we could publicly commemorate the tragedy. In the end, we decided not to stage the usual Jerusalem Pride Parade, but rather to transform it. This week’s event is a pride parade, but it is much more than that. The event will attract the LGBT community from all over the country, and we will commemorate the first anniversary of this murder.

The intention is to mark the end of the year of mourning, and also to start discussing our rights as a community in a more comprehensive manner, and the Knesset is the right place for that. We also seek to address the harsh incitement against our community that leads to violence against us, and to speak systematically about the discrimination we face. Israeli law sanctions nearly 700 forms of discrimination against us.

What rights does the gay community lack in Israel in 2010?

We are often asked, “What are you marching for – you can get married if you travel to Canada, and have children if you go to India.” A text we prepared for the march addresses certain infringements on our rights, divided into five categories: health services, family rights, protection from hatred, identity rights and equality in the allocation of state resources. For instance, in the area of health care, when someone chooses to undergo sex reassignment surgery, HMO health benefit packages do not cover fertility matters such as sperm and egg storage. Such benefits, however, are offered to cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy.

The status of partners is also problematic. When someone in the community is hospitalized, it often happens that his or her partner lacks formal status [in order to visit or make any health-related decisions]. The community faces restrictions regarding adoption rights. With respect to protection from hatred, we demand stiffer penalties for offenders, and we also seek changes in the law. As it stands, the law is confined to offenders who carry out acts of terror. We would like to see other crimes of hatred recognized by law. We want government ministries to allocate far more resources to education against acts of hatred toward our community, and to education for social change.

Do you really think a march on the Knesset will bring about change?

In the week after the Bar Noar murders, we heard statements from political figures which had seldom been uttered before. It was the first time a prime minister visited a site associated with the gay community; Israel’s president also spoke out about the issue, as did ministers and Knesset members; and religious parties claimed that this was not the intention of their protests against the gay community. Statements and dynamics of this sort are what we have tried to encourage during the past year, but the community was also traumatized and in mourning.

The first anniversary marks the end of the grieving and the start of deliberation on what comes next. Changing the community’s status is the best tribute we can offer to those who were wounded or killed – we pay tribute by dedicating ourselves to preventing such an occurrence from happening again, and bringing an end to the hatred and murder.

To a great extent, such a change depends on the country’s decision makers, not on me. This is their opportunity to prove that what happened will not be repeated. This year I want to establish a pride lobby in the Knesset. On the eve of the pride parade, we are going to send a statement to all 120 Knesset members; this will be our work plan.

How will it feel to march in the capital, a year after the attack in Tel Aviv?

We are marching in Jerusalem this year for the eighth time. Every year there is fear, though in recent years the fear has somewhat abated. We were able to create a dialogue in Jerusalem that significantly reduced the opposition we had witnessed during the parade’s first years. I am not afraid of demonstrations, and we are not looking for [counter-demonstrations] – we are not marching because of the ultra-Orthodox. We are Jerusalemites and this is our city, and we are marching in it. Is it still frightening to walk down the street, hand in hand, with the person you love? The answer is yes, but we march so that there will be nothing to fear in the future.

How does it feel to walk through Jerusalem, knowing the person who committed hate crimes against your community has yet to be apprehended?

Knowing this person is still at large is very hard to take, and it impinges on our daily lives. From the day of the attack, the JOH was forced to employ a full-time guard, who checks the bags of anyone entering the building. And this routine will continue at least as long as the murderer is still at large. I believe the police force is allocating adequate resources to apprehending the perpetrator of this despicable crime. But it’s still scary. It is a danger we face on a daily basis.

Has Jerusalem become used to the LGBT community?

A few years ago, the entire city was duped by media spin that depicted the parade as something happening for the first time in Jerusalem. The parade was portrayed as being comparable to the event in Tel Aviv, which is a kind of party; the real picture of how the parade is conducted in Jerusalem, in contrast to Tel Aviv, was lost. The Jerusalem parade is devoted to rights lacked by the community. It is not a celebration, it is a demonstration. We have invested a lot of energy to reach a point where the Haredi community recognizes the difference between the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem events.

Does the JOH have any direct interaction with the ultra-Orthodox community?

We prefer not to give a detailed answer to this question, so as not to compromise those who are in contact with us. But yes, we have direct connections with representatives of the religious communities.

What is it like being a homosexual in an increasingly Orthodox city?

I’m worried about people leaving Jerusalem – including the flight of the open-minded public in general and the LGBT community in particular. We work hard to try to change this demographic pattern; we aren’t ready to give up on Jerusalem. This is a city that belongs to all of us. We choose to live here, alongside all other types of residents who dwell in the city. More than anything, the parade is a celebration of the city’s pluralism. The goal is to create a Jerusalem in which gay people will feel truly at home.

What do you say to people who wonder whether the parade is worth the provocation it causes?

I don’t think anyone uses this terminology any longer. “Provocation” is a bygone term. Just as on Jerusalem day there is a parade featuring flags, and just as there are parades for soldiers held hostage, we too are part of this reality. When another country’s prime minister comes for a visit, they close off streets; and, in the same way, they close off streets when we march. The fact that some store-owners complain about the march and say it bothers them when streets get closed is simply hypocrisy.

Why is it worth the effort to live in Jerusalem?

I grew up here, and it is very important to me that my son grow up here. The thought of raising a child in Tel Aviv is much less compelling than doing so in Jerusalem. Daily realities in this city are more powerful than any newspaper headline. Personal encounters on playgrounds between religious parents and ourselves do a lot to change the reality. Such encounters involve far less fear and hatred of the other than what we’re accustomed to seeing in the newspapers. That is where the real change takes place.

Yonatan Gher Yonatan Gher
Photo by: Tomer Appelbaum


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Jerusalem Pride’s Back On!

The Jerusalem police have reversed their earlier ruling and Jerusalem Pride will now culminate with a rally in front of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) as planned on July 29th!

This is especially important news since this year’s pride will commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Bar-Noar shootings by demanding additional rights and protections for the LGBT community.  The march’s tag line – “What is Equality?” – is fitting as we focus on five key areas of inequity, including access to health services, the right to family, freedom from hate, freedom of identity, and access to state resources. You can learn more about the march on our newly refurbished (!!) English website here . Also, there’s a cool little sideshow talking about “What is Equality?” available from the JOH’s Facebook page under videos (sorry it’s not translated into English yet, getting there!).

During this week’s English Speakers Event (Monday at 8 PM at the JOH) our community coordinator Yotam will talk for a bit about how to get involved in the parade. We will also have lots of desserts and icing to sweeten the deal!  If you can’t make the meeting, but would still like to get involved regardless of your Hebrew level, here’s how:

Physical and Virtual Presence: Become a visible supporter of LGBT rights and of the Jerusalem Pride Parade. Pass out fliers in your neighborhood or in other popular public places! Join the Jerusalem Pride Parade’s Facebook page and invite friends!

Ushering: Want to take a more active role during the parade itself? We need ushers to guide people along the parade route and to inform JOH staff of any issues. Ushers are crucial to ensure the parade runs smoothly and will meet a couple hours before the start of the march.  You will still get to participate in the parade – you will just get to wear an official t-shirt while you do it! Recruit your friends, family or random people off the street to help as well. The more the merrier!

Contact community@joh.org.il for more details about how you can get involved!

And now for your viewing pleasure, an article originally printed at on the police’s decision to allow the parade to continue as planned:

Police okay gay pride parade route to Knesset

Police backpedal, approve parade organizers’ request to conclude march outside parliament

Ronen Medzini

Published: 07.06.10, 14:08 / Israel News

Jerusalem District Police have backpedaled and have now granted authorization to the gay pride parade, to be held in the city at the end of the month, to conclude at the Knesset building as per the request of its organizers.At the parade’s end, a rally will be held in the nearby Rose Garden.

A number of weeks ago, the police recommended that the parade be held on the same route as it was last year, citing security concerns.

This year, the Jerusalem pride parade will mark the one-year anniversary of the slaying at the gay youth center in Tel Aviv and will be billed as Israel’s national gay pride parade. For this reason, the organizers insisted that the parade conclude at the doorsteps of Israel’s legislative branch. Jerusalem Open House Executive Director Yonatan Gher said, “The parade route to the Knesset, on the anniversary of the murder, is the proper route to symbolize what the parade is demanding – full equal rights for the gay community in Israel and an end to the incitement, violence, and silencing that we experience everyday.”

Gher continued, “On this day, the message that will be sent from Jerusalem to Israel and the world will be a message of accepting the other, of celebrating the human diversity that makes up this unique city, the capital city that is holy to all of us.”

Ayala Katz, bereaved mother of Nir Katz who was murdered in the Tel Aviv youth center shooting, said that she will participate in the Jerusalem event.

“The message sent today to all of Israel’s citizens is that threats of violence are not rewarded. The parade on the eve of the murder’s anniversary is granted full legitimacy today, and we, as parents, will march for the benefit and the future of our children,” Katz said.


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JOH Fights for the Rights of Gay Fathers

The Jerusalem Open House (specifically our fearless director Jonathan Ger) recently took action in the now famous case where a gay couple were refused the right to bring their children – twins born to a surrogate in India – into Israel by filing a formal letter of protest accusing Family Court Judge Philip Marcus of discrimination based on sexual orientation. As published in Haaretz:

Gay rights group alleges discrimination, protests against judge who wouldn’t let twins into Israel

By Tomer Zarchin published 01:52 03.06.10

A gay rights advocacy group filed a complaint yesterday against the judge who handled the case of a gay man stranded in India with the twins he fathered, who were born to a surrogate mother there.

Jonathan Ger, who heads the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, submitted a letter of protest on the group’s behalf to the judiciary ombudsman, former Supreme Court justice Eliezer Goldberg, accusing Family Court Judge Philip Marcus of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Judge Phillip Marcus

“We are appealing to you with a heavy heart and from a sense of humiliation and grievous harm caused by a Jerusalem Family Court judge,” wrote Ger, whose complaint also accused Marcus of discriminating against two other gay fathers attempting to bring their children into the country from India.

“Disturbingly, these three fathers of children who were born via surrogacy are discriminated against in a legal proceeding solely due to their sexual preferences,” the complaint said.

The twins – a boy and girl born to an Indian woman who was serving as a surrogate mother for the father, Dan Goldberg, and his partner – were denied entry to Israel because Marcus ruled that he did not have the authority to approve the paternity test that would allow the children to become Israeli citizens. Goldberg and his children have since arrived in the country.

The twins, Itai and Liron, with their parents arriving in Israel last week.

In all three cases cited in the complaint, Marcus said he did not have the authority to approve a paternity test for children born to surrogate mothers from India, even though other Israeli judges have routinely authorized the test for dozens of other gay couples.

In the Goldberg hearing, Marcus said if one of the men seeking to raise the children turns out to be “a pedophile or serial killer, these are things that the state must examine.”

Marcus’ ruling left Goldberg stranded in a Mumbai hotel with the babies, Itai and Liron, until Goldberg won the case on appeal. Media reports of the case sparked outrage last month, and prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to instruct the Interior Ministry to “relax the law” and permit the family to return to the country.

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  • Published 01:52 03.06.10
  • Latest update 01:52 03.06.10

Gay rights group alleges discrimination, protests against judge who wouldn’t let twins into Israel

By Tomer Zarchin

A gay rights advocacy group filed a complaint yesterday against the judge who handled the case of a gay man stranded in India with the twins he fathered, who were born to a surrogate mother there.

Jonathan Ger, who heads the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, submitted a letter of protest on the group’s behalf to the judiciary ombudsman, former Supreme Court justice Eliezer Goldberg, accusing Family Court Judge Philip Marcus of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“We are appealing to you with a heavy heart and from a sense of humiliation and grievous harm caused by a Jerusalem Family Court judge,” wrote Ger, whose complaint also accused Marcus of discriminating against two other gay fathers attempting to bring their children into the country from India.

“Disturbingly, these three fathers of children who were born via surrogacy are discriminated against in a legal proceeding solely due to their sexual preferences,” the complaint said.

The twins – a boy and girl born to an Indian woman who was serving as a surrogate mother for the father, Dan Goldberg, and his partner – were denied entry to Israel because Marcus ruled that he did not have the authority to approve the paternity test that would allow the children to become Israeli citizens. Goldberg and his children have since arrived in the country.

In all three cases cited in the complaint, Marcus said he did not have the authority to approve a paternity test for children born to surrogate mothers from India, even though other Israeli judges have routinely authorized the test for dozens of other gay couples.

In the Goldberg hearing, Marcus said if one of the men seeking to raise the children turns out to be “a pedophile or serial killer, these are things that the state must examine.”

Marcus’ ruling left Goldberg stranded in a Mumbai hotel with the babies, Itai and Liron, until Goldberg won the case on appeal. Media reports of the case sparked outrage last month, and prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to instruct the Interior Ministry to “relax the law” and permit the family to return to the country.