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Fall 2008 | Investigation: Israel at 60 Part Two

Fall 2008 | Investigation: Israel at 60 Part Two

As the Jewish state celebrates its diamond anniversary, its progressive policies continue to shine like a gay jewel in the Middle Eastern rough.

Along with its tiny size, Israel?s history of war and terror has resulted in a worldview far more pragmatic than commonly held attitudes in the United States or Europe. ?In a nation so full of turmoil and people dying young, having your son or daughter turn out gay is hardly the worst thing that can happen,? Uchovsky says. Still, this air of openness only extends so far. Three years ago religious extremists stabbed marchers in Jerusalem?s annual gay pride parade. Early opposition to the city?s long-planned 2006 WorldPride event brought together an unprecedented public alliance of right-wing Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders in Israel and abroad. Much as in larger Israeli secular society, life outside the liberal ?Tel Aviv bubble? can remain close-minded and staunchly conservative.

Still, gay Israel continues to evolve?with new bars, gyms, saunas, and all-hours parties appearing in Tel Aviv almost monthly and the city?s tolerant vibe continuing to thrive unchallenged. Need proof? Then head over to Tel Aviv?s gay beach?just below the Hilton Hotel?where hard-bodied homo hotties sun themselves along the Mediterranean unabashedly hand in hand. A short stroll away from the new Richard Meier?designed luxury residential towers is Evita, a very happening gay bistro and bar on Yavne Street that stays busy late into the night.

Although there?s no major gay presence in other large Israeli cities such as Jerusalem or Haifa, Uchovsky still feels Israel has reached a maturity level where it now must deal with ?luxury issues? such as levels of ?outness? or whether to raise families: ?For the most part, we have won the big fights.? He also says the community?s maturity now means that there are far more gay right-wingers than a generation ago?a hawkish demographic much less welcoming to Israel?s Arab neighbors, gay and straight. Since gays are a minority group and gay venues have been rare loci of Jewish-Arab interaction, Uchovsky finds Israeli gays? shift to the right ?very disturbing.? But he adds, ?We have fought for the recognition that gay people are everywhere in society?so we have to accept they may even be among the conservatives.?

Israel Gay Rights Timeline
1948: Israel declares independence
1988: Israeli parliament (Knesset) decriminalizes homosexuality
1992: Knesset prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace
1993: Israeli Defense Forces abolishes restrictions on job placement for gays in the military
1994: Same-sex partner benefits recognized in private sector
1997: Same-sex partner benefits recognized in public sector
1998: Transsexual Israeli singer Dana International wins Eurovision Song Contest
2000: Age of consent equalized for both heterosexuals and homosexuals
2002: Gay film Yossi & Jagger released in Israel, breaks out worldwide
2005: WorldPride in Jerusalem canceled out in wake of Gaza pullout
2006: Gay marriages abroad recognized in Israel
2008: Gay adoptions legalized

Part One | Part Two
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