LGBTQ activist discussed community rights in Israel



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Israeli activist Etai Pinkas spoke to students in the Jewish community about LGBT rights in Israel in Woodburn Hall on Thursday evening. Pinkas opened up the discussion for questions from the students throughout his talk.  Rebecca Mehling Buy Photos

Etai Pinkas, an LGBTQ activist in Israel, spoke to a 12-person audience about the history of LGBTQ rights in Israel on Thursday evening in Woodburn Hall.

The Helene G. Simon Hillel Center organized the event, which was co-sponsored by other Jewish and LGBTQ associations in an effort to encourage discussion of gay culture in Israel.

“It’s a diverse country,” said Yotam Elias, 26, a Jewish Agency Israel Fellow at Hillel.

An Israeli flag hung on a blackboard brought a splash of blue color to the white-walled room.

Growing up, Pinkas said he wanted to be a politician, but upon realizing he was not straight he decided his goal was unattainable and abandoned his dream.

He thought it would be too difficult for a gay man to get elected in Israel at the time.

However, he was elected as a city council member in 2003, after serving as chairman of the national LGBTQ association in Israel.

“Only then I realized that my old dream, that I thought was not possible, was fulfilled without even my intention to go back to my dream,” Pinkas said.

Elias said it is a possibily for both men in a gay 
relationship to be called into military service at the same time, leaving the children home alone.

This is a problem for Israelis, he said.

In a heterosexual relationship, when a man is called to serve, the wife stays home to tend to the children, he said.

However, in a gay relationship, both parents ran the risk of being called upon at the same time.

The Pinkas family was asked to be the poster family for legislation to prevent this from happening.

“We agreed, of course,” Pinkas said.

An image displayed on the screen in Woodburn depicted Pinkas and his partner sitting with their three daughters on a couch as Pinkas discussed the 
legislation with the gathered crowd.

In the image, both men were wearing their army uniforms.

Pinkas said the LGBTQ community is not the only group fighting for marriage rights and equality in Israel. He said there were also issues with cross-religion marriages in Israel.

“I don’t see it getting solved soon, but at least we are getting more rights, that are not being achieved under the marriage headline, but are being resolved one by one,” he said.

Senior Mitch Cooper, an intern at Hillel, said he helps coordinate events to bring different speakers to talk about Israeli culture to students on campus.

Cooper said there is a strong LGBTQ community on campus, and he thought it would be nice to bring someone from that background to speak.

Edan Gomez, a senior studying political science, attended the discussion to help support a friend who helped plan the event.

The discussion of LGBTQ rights in Israel is important, he said.

“I don’t think it’s a very well known issue,” he said. “It’s something a lot of people don’t talk about.”

Cooper said having Pinkas on campus allowed students to learn about an aspect of Israeli life they may not have heard about before.

“I hope to see people learn the different side to Israel, which is often in the media in a light that’s not so pleasant,” he said.

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