Monday, May 01, 2006

The Good, the Bad and the Ambiguous in Israel

First, the Good:

According to Ynet News, the Israeli tourism industry, with help from the Tourism Ministry, is working to make Tel Aviv the gay capital of the world. Quote:

"During the exhibition [Israeli Hotel Association Director-General Eli] Ziv met with representatives of the homo-lesbian travel industry, and discovered an audience that would travel just about anywhere for a good party, even to the Middle East."

I love the term 'homo-lesbian'. Ha!

That is great news for Israel. I feel, however, that the move to entice gay people to Israel was not solely due to Israel's love for them, but was largely financial. I mean, it was just recently that Shas Chairman Eli Yishai called homosexuality a disease, saying, "A medication for homosexuality has not been invented yet, but I hope it is found." In the above article, note the phrase "would travel just about anywhere...even the Middle East." Tourism, the third-largest trade in Israel, experienced a huge slump after the start of the second intifada, and is only now starting to recover. Check out articles here and here. Gay people might only be targeted because they are the few people willing to risk life and limb for a good party. But I'm not trying to look a gift horse in the mouth.

On the other hand, increased gayness in Israel might indirectly be bad news for gay people in the Arab Middle East. There are already quite a few people who see homosexuality as a conspiracy on Arabs by Israel and the United States. Check out this article from Naharnet. It probably won't be a big deal, however.

So, Tel Aviv is turning pink. Now, if only Lebanese were allowed to go there (legally).

Second, the Bad:

Gay Pride was cancelled in Tel Aviv this year, says Arutz Sheva. Apparently, Tel Aviv isn't gay enough yet to compete with ancient (and bloody) Jerusalem.

Last, the Ambiguous:

A recent article on Gay NZ says that Israel only now is inviting gay and lesbian participation in official commemorations.

I remember learning about gay people during the holocaust, somewhat through watching the movie Bent. I especially remember that the movie underscored that gay people were the most horribly treated in the camps, even worsely treated than the Jews. While the Jews were starving and dying from intense labor and gassing, gay people were undergoing tortuous surgeries, lobotomies, and sterilization. This site gives a great depiction.

I think it's fantastic that Israel is finally including gay people in its remembrance, but I can't believe it took so long. I have an Dutch friend who visited Yad Vashem, the main memorial in Israel, in 2002, when he said that there was no inclusion of gay people in the display that highlighted persecuted people other than Jews - namely gypsies, the handicapped, Slavs, etc. At the time, I read quite a few articles by people protesting Yad Vashem's omittance. I thought that a country that strives to be Western as much as Israel does would quickly remedy the situation, but they only did so in 2005. Ah, well...better late than never.


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