Category Archives: Israel

Top 10 LGBT Websites and Blogs

rosie says we can blog itmy new flatmate works in pr and marketing and already knows that i am a geek with social media stats. in his natural kindness he sent me this interesting list of the most popular LGBT websites and blogs. the list was compiled in june 2011 by a group called in partnership with a media database group called cision. they ranked the sites listed below by unique visitors per month (uvpm).

if you are also a social media geek or if you simply want to know where folks are going to get their lgbt related news and gossip take a look…

  1. 290,315 uvpm
  2. 203,924 uvpm
  3. Towleroad 200,477 uvpm
  4. Queerty 196,806 uvpm
  5. 145,255 uvpm
  6. The Bilerico Project 78,459 uvpm
  7. 77,342 uvpm
  8. 71,360 uvpm
  9. Outsports 68,573 uvpm
  10. 56,550 uvpm
if you’re looking for a blog on how to bake the perfect challah, how to properly observe a jewish holiday, like yom kippur which begins this evening, or how to how to date a homosexual femme jewess, i must confess, that i don’t have a top ten list of bloggers for you based on uvpm stats. i can highly recommend this leading transdenominational jewish website for the most comprehensive jewish information… tell me, friends, do you know where i can find reliable uvpm stats on jewish blogs?

Posted by on October 7, 2011 in Microscope


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Dana International of Israel helps out Eurovision

Thirteen years after winning the Eurovision Song Contest with Diva in 1998 Dana International was back again representing Israel with her self composed entry Ding Dong as she attempted to win the title again. Dana’s victory in the 1998 contest had a strong impression on the world, and she became a cultural icon. In Israel (which has participated in Eurovision almost every year since 1973), on the night of the 1998 victory, thousands of people celebrated on the streets, and Dana has been a star ever since.

When I travel or speak with Israeli people and describe what I do for a living her name will come up within three minutes. It is like clock-work. I say something about Trans rights in English. The person I am speaking with asks what that means. Someone who is also Israeli and standing near us or involved in the conversation interjects and simply says, “Dana, you know Dana International.”   Dana International has become synonymous with not only the rights of Trans people but the full LGBT spectrum of identities. It is amazing.

Although she was sadly voted out of Eurovison Thursday night the history of this extraordinary woman has helped change the understanding of LGBT civil rights not only in Israel but also across the globe. Take a look at this BBC video talking about her impact on our world:

Dana International of Israel performs her song 'Ding Dong' during a rehearsal for the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest in Dusseldorf May 11, 2011. Photograph by: Ina Fassbender, REUTERS

Dana International of Israel performs her song 'Ding Dong' during a rehearsal for the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest in Dusseldorf May 11, 2011. Photograph by: Ina Fassbender, REUTERS

I hope that you will be able to join me at our Federations’ LGBT Alliance booth celebrating Dana International and her contributions to our global community at Israel in the Gardens this June 5 in San Francisco.

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Posted by on May 16, 2011 in Israel


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jewish call to honor world aids day

despite much education over many decades, there is still often prejudice and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, both in our community and around the world. no matter who or where you are, your actions can make a real difference in stopping the spread of HIV and ending HIV/AIDS prejudice locally as well as globally. as our jewish communities light the first flames of hanukkah at multiple gatherings this evening in the san francisco bay area and around the world we are also called to honor world AIDS day. i hope that you are able to join us in the ways that you are able. read more.

Do what you can... be creative in supporting World AIDS Day.

Learn about HIV/AIDS in Israel.

Gay Jewish artist Jonathan Adler launches his Starbucks Red Card in time for World AIDS Day

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Posted by on December 1, 2010 in Israel, LGBT Alliance


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an outreach table for trans community connections in tel aviv

i loved the trans remembrance shabbat service at sha’ar zahav. it was powerful on so many incredible levels. i loved rabbi angel’s joy of using siddur sha’ar zahav throughout the service paying attention to all of the prayers already written-into the text specifically related to trans remembrance. i loved martin rawlings-fein sharing note cards with a random selection of people to stand and read the names so they could too experience the public remembering. i loved sarah hoffman’s drash on exploring the experiences of parenting her gender variant child attending a local jewish day school.

after the service, a dear friend of mine sitting near me who now identifies as a butch lesbian, could not stop talking (really, this friend, usually quiet, was talking and talking and talking for quite a long time) about how she felt validated: finally. “outloud” she said, “i heard my experience as being this seriously awkward kid summarized. sarah {hoffman} substantiated so much of what i always felt but never really verbalized myself during her drash. if only someone turned to me 20 years-ago and said, kid, you don’t need to be someone else. you are great just as g*d created you – i would be a much more confident person today.”

in addition to jewish communities in los angeles, san francisco, boston, new york and oakland holding space for this important day folks in tel aviv, israel did too. it is powerful knowing that across the globe folks in tel aviv honored transgender day of remembrance as we did in san francisco. in tel aviv folks marked trans remembrance day not only with a ceremony at the lgbt center but a march as well bringing attention to the harm of transphobic violence and discrimination.

this continual communal need to encourage spiritual care, bring new voices of leadership into the public conversation, as well as the impetus towards social-change based activism is an integral piece of what makes me proud to be part of this global jewish community.


Posted by on November 21, 2010 in Hyperlocal, Israel, Jewish Bay Area


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the media cruised the crowd of 3,000 participants marching in jerusalem pride on thursday for drama and when they found none they looked to the folks watching along the perimeter of the parade for drama. the two groups of spectators that i saw along the 2.5km pride march route, who consisted of loads of media and about 30 teenage american tourists hovering the fence and cheering, did not seem to qualify as drama. folks i was with just seemed to laugh at the only potential drama which originated from the yeshiva we passed by that blasted animal noises from a speaker. i did see a group of 5 folks holding anti-gay signs but they even looked bored. so, sorry, media we are no longer dramatic. we are now just a bit colorful and way over protected with about one bored police officer to each participant.

whatever. there was plenty of political and behind the scenes drama leading up to the march. the drama included a protest of orthodox men in a nearby neighborhood, a fully decorated bomb-squad team showing up days before the march without a known bomb threat, a sketchy process of negotiations on the cost of security as well as the consistent threat of pulling all of our marching permits.

the behind the scenes dramas in my opinion originates not simply from the (ultra) orthodox jewish community but from the jerusalem municipality and local police who seem to publicly agree with the community rhetoric that pride should not happen in jerusalem. their rhetoric is so over-stated that after a month in israel i even roll my eyes when i hear it. so here is an example, just to catch you up, on the overly-stated usual conversation that i experience, “i am so in favor of gay people. i mean it is great to be gay, right. gay people can be everywhere in israel. we don’t discriminate at all in israel against gays. but {insert contemplative pause} why do you need to flaunt and cause such a scene in jerusalem? it is jerusalem. it is such a holy city. why can’t you just drive 45 minutes to tel aviv to have your gay pride there?”

obviously, if you are reading this on this blog, i am sure you can easily pick apart the statement above. it is filled with so many ill-conceived notions that your head can explode. instead of picking it apart, let’s just say, that statement is one of the reasons we march. our true equality is not yet understood. i often ask the person saying this statement, how do you suggest we as LGBT people live freely in this democracy if when and how, for example, we go to the grocery store with our same-sex partner and (because it is israel) two to three babies and not then be considered flaunting our sexual orientation?” for some reason this example seems to work here and folks seem to then agree that in order to be safe at the grocery store we need to be safe to be ourselves as a group in the streets… for a few fun visuals and because my camera is pretty low quality, here are a few photos taken by a two global lgbt activists:

yonatan gher leads his incredible staff and volunteer team into a group a hug jerusalem open house style before the march begins. they were the force that made this march happen. (Photo by Chad Meacham)

a young person holds a flag during the pre-march gathering at gan haatzmaut (independence park) (photo by sebastian scheiner)

folks chill out in independence park before the march begins (photo by sebastian scheiner)

look at the media chasing behind the one of two activists detained by israeli police officers (photo by sebastian scheiner)

a sweet couple kisses and a older fellow is caught behind the couple in the scene taking his own photo (photo by sebastian scheiner)

bored israeli police with their big guns (photo by chad meacham)

there were several protestors from the ultra-orthodox jewish community, who mostly made sheep noises. (photo by chad meacham)

folks march holding a huge flag (photo by sebastian scheiner)

ayala katz, mother of nir katz, z'l one of the victims of last year’s tel aviv bar-noa shooting, gave an emotional speech at the post march vigil about her hopes of ending homophobia. Ayala now heads an LGBT support organization for parents of the LGBT community in Tel Aviv (photo by chad meacham)

ultra-orthodox jews attend a prayer and protest against our gay pride parade, in the mea sharim neighborhood of jerusalem, before we march. executive director of jerusalem open house, yonatan gher has been quoted saying, "there is no religious monopoly on the holy city. the reason the march takes place in Jerusalem is not to upset anyone. we're here because we're jerusalemites & this is our city as much as anybody else's."

i had another incredible day in jerusualem meeting folks, seeing the sites and getting ready for pride. the day began at jerusalem open house by meeting with a new social justice hero, dr. ishai menuchin, the executive director of the public committee against torture in israel, over frozen yougart. and the day ended with one of the most interesting and tasty dining experiences in jerusalem with new friends idit klein the executive director of keshet and jordan namerow with american jewish world service at chef moshe basson’s  kosher eucalyptus restaurant inside the hutzot hayotzer artist colony. without a doubt, it was a day worth shooting photos of on my little green camera so please take a look at the my photos of the day by clicking here.


Posted by on July 31, 2010 in Israel, Microscope


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Leviticus 20:13 'If a man has sex with a man in same way as with a woman, they have committed an abomination. They are certainly to be put to death.'

Well, as my dear friend Jonathan has said in response to this statement illustrated above as inspired by Leviticus, “Why would a man have sex with a man in the same way as a woman? As a gay man I should have sex with a man in the way a man wants to have sex with a man {even as a man is or was or could be a woman…}.” One of the many feelings that I have experienced during this Israel journey are the intricate, enmeshed and contradictory levels of joy, sadness and complexity in civil society.

These contradictions have served as a road map into the ways I have been able to reconcile the intensity and love of life here. So today, I focus on the immediate need for equality in regards to sexual orientation and gender identity in Jerusalem and we march. In somewhat of a contrast, mostly in the levels of celebration and local community acceptance, to Pride in San Francisco, Madrid, Toronto or Tel Aviv we are marching for our equality in the hope that one day we will be marching here to celebrate with the larger community. Today I have pride, I have hope and I have love. I also have sneakers and I will be marching from Independence Park to the Knesset this afternoon.

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Posted by on July 29, 2010 in Israel, Microscope


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The Jewish Laws of Separation also called the Laws of Family Purity, Taharat Ha-Mishpachah, as interpreted from Leviticus 15:19 -24, are taken very seriously here in Israel. I don’t participate in these laws personally as a single non-observant woman yet I am reminded of them as I sleep in them every night.

Essentially, these family purity laws apply to a married woman as she enters the halachic status of niddah. This is mostly when she experiences menstruation or post-childbirth. While a married woman is niddah, couples are not permitted any physical contact. Any contact including touching hands while walking down the street… In order to prevent marital relations from inadvertently taking place at the time that a woman is niddah, couples observe times of separation vestot or onot perishah.

Tohorat Ha-mishpacha today instructs beds in Israel hotels to have the options to be together or separate. Hence the reason that all hotel beds in Israel are twin beds with the option to be together or for separation. The photo above is a photo of one of the typical hotel rooms I have been staying in.

A married woman remains in niddah, prohibiting intimacy with her partner, until she has removed all barriers that could come between her body, g*d, men and most specifically, water. These spiritual and physical barriers, chatzitzot, are removed and then she immerses herself in the mikveh. Once a woman has immersed herself in the mikveh she is no longer niddah and is now tehorah ready to touch and be touched again


Posted by on July 29, 2010 in Israel, Microscope


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i fell in love with anne the moment she sat down next to me at the organic diner and smoked cigarettes for an hour with her cappuccino and feisty energy.

anne (pictured to the right) is a holocaust survivor. she was also was once a little girl on a ship that symbolizes for so many the struggle for unrestricted jewish immigration into palestine. i had the opportunity to hear her story, which includes being aboard the exodus in 1947, when she sat across from me on the patio of the organic cafe in the scorching heat of july in tel aviv wearing heals, tight black pants and a long sleeve black shirt.

within a few seconds of anne sitting down a cappuccino was placed in front of her and a lit cigarette was in her hand. her confidence and contradictory character in this overtly health seeking place was refreshing to me and we began to chat.

The Exodus 1947 in Haifa

This photo is of the Exodus boat 63 years ago on July 20, 1947 before being deported back to Europe from Haifa, Palestine.

anne is one of the estimated 250,000 holocaust survivors currently living in israel (250,000 by the way is about half the number of survivors who arrived in the country since 1947). her exodus experience with her mother and father shaped her life as she tells it now as a woman who never married, never wanted children and simply wanted to tell me about her life now as a retired nurse in tel aviv.

anne responded to my usual question i ask most folks here, which is, “what is zionism?” by telling me to go to jerusalem and look it up myself. at another time she asked me, “why can’t you tell me? you are here in israel, don’t you already know what zionism is?

the conversation between us lasted about an hour but it was one of the most remarkable moments at a cafe i have ever had in tel aviv… watch an excerpt from our conversation below or click here to see a few photos of the day including my visit to the Tel Aviv LGBT Community Center 

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Posted by on July 28, 2010 in Israel, Microscope


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another amazing morning

Sure, we work here on Sunday morning but really, look at this Sunday morning breakfast! Fresh vegetables, a smooth latte, smoked salmon, a simple omelet, avocado and whole grain breads. No wonder folks here are gorgeous: this is just what they serve for a Tel Aviv breakfast! The rest of the day is filled with fresh fruits, yogurt, fish, eggplant, hummus, breads and even more salads.... I half expect to come home to San Francisco and begin preparing each of my meals like this but sadly, the cost of organic, locally grown, fresh veggies and fruits are a bit more costly back home...

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Posted by on July 25, 2010 in Israel, Microscope


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We woke up refreshed and ready to learn on Sunday morning…at least I was, I am proud to say that I was the second person to arrive in our morning meeting rooms at the hotel. This is a first for me to be early in the morning… and on a Sunday morning to be early is simply a shock to everyone who knows me. One of the things about Israel, in contrast to my weekends in the states, is that I really miss having two days of the North American weekend. Here in Israel you get about a day and a half off from work… So as you can see from the photos from Shabbat yesterday, I slept in, missed breakfast, went to the pool and had a nice conversation with my friends, Michael from Australia, Tiffany from New York and Eduardo from Torino, on our feelings about about the Mechitza scandal of the night before.

Edoardo Segre from Italy is a religious man who guards Shabbat each week. He even prepared for Tisha B’Av by not eating meat during the nine days before this holiday commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Before speaking with Edoardo I did not even knew that folks don’t eat meat before this holiday. He was able to explain this and many other traditions that he participates in with genuine mensch′en kindness.

Most hotels and public spaces in Israel have a small room where folks can go and pray. It is Israel so every factor, celebration and conflict of pluralistic identity and diversity come into context when religious folks that are interested in praying in their traditional Sefardi, Ashkenazi or Mizrahi ways are mixed in with a little Americana Trans-denominational led service by our brilliantly talented friend Bodi. So our group was first to arrive in the room and Bodi, Eduardo and a few of the other men from our group began to daven and the women in our group sat on the left side of the Mechitza.

I had no idea what to do in this scene. I did not know where to stand or sit… So in a rescue effort my friend, another incredible mensch, Jonas Herzberg Karpantschof of Copenhagen, waved his hand at me when he saw me looking puzzled. He asked me to sit in the back row of chairs with him. Our leader, Ami Mehl came in after we started to pray and sat next to me on my left.

Framing my experience outside of the gender binary and within the delicate balance of pluralism and tradition was helped by my reading Balancing on the Mechitza before I left for Israel. This book, a collection of deeply personal and theoretical contemplations by activists, theologians and scholars, edited by Noach Dzmura, explores experiences of Jewish worship through a Transgender lens.

Within moments a few men walked in and started arguing with Bodi and Ami that the Mechitza should be behind the men so they can join us in prayer. Behind the men means to me that they could not just have women separated to the left of the Mechitza they were telling us they needed the women physically behind them in order to pray.

The argument was dramatic and loud and before I could really pretend to translate the conversation it was over. I assume that Bodi and Ami won the argument, if that could be possible, because we stayed in the room with the Mechitza simply dividing the room in half. I sat in one of the four chairs in the back where I was too distracted by the scene to daven.

With my friends the next morning near the pool our Shabbat conversations revolved around the mechitza incident the night before and what it brought up for us within our personal constructs of feminism, gender identity, Judaism and Israeli pluralism. Each of my friends mentioned that they were raised within some level of the modern Orthodox movement.

We were four Jews from three different countries on Shabbat listening to each other, learning and validating each of our experiences on how we see balancing the traditions of mechitza within halacha. In the end of the conversation I remember thinking, thank g*d, I can have gender reconstructed dialog with this incredibly brilliant group of people that understand halacha without anyone using halacha to help cite judgement but instead build greater understanding for all of us.

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Posted by on July 21, 2010 in Diplomatic Seminar, Israel


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