- January 15, 2013
This post comes from Limor Finkel and Michael Toumayan on the HRC staff:
Last week, we were thrilled to join other LGBT and human rights advocates in a roundtable discussion by Israel’s National LGBT Task Force – The Aguda – to learn of their work on LGBT issues in Israel. The discussion was co-hosted by HRC and the Anti-Defamation League at their headquarters in Washington, DC.
Established in 1975, the Aguda is a volunteer-based human rights organization that works to improve the life of the Israeli LGBT community. Both Natalie Sade, Executive Director and Shai Doitsh, Chairperson of Aguda, discussed their work in advancing rights and opportunities for Israel’s LGBT community by way of legal action, advocacy, and health and direct social welfare assistance programs.
Despite sectarian tensions, we were struck by how Aguda’s relevance in Israel continues to grow as it responds to the various needs of Israel’s diverse cultural environments. They have broken down cultural and physical barriers, and they have even engaged in work with LGBT Palestinians living in refugee camps, helping hundreds of high-risk individuals by providing them temporary shelter in their community centers around Israel or permanent asylum in other countries.
Michael, having studied in Israel, was especially interested in their engagement with the country’s sectarian groups. Among their newer and cutting-edge projects are the difficult task of outreach to Arab Israeli LGBT persons and engaging the conservative Orthodox establishment within the State.
Working daily on intersectional issues like religion and LGBT issues here in the U.S., as part of global movement, there is much we can learn from their work within a sectarian context because the latter is widespread in the Middle East and other parts of the world. Therefore any work in such high-culture context places require awareness of religious and cultural sensitivities on our part when addressing LGBT rights.
Representing HRC were Josh King, Senior Policy Associate, Limor Finkel from Executive and Michael Toumayan from our Foundation’s Religion and Faith Program.