Israel was ranked as the seventh happiest place in the world for gay men to live on the first ever annual Gay Happiness Index, which surveyed over 115,000 gay men in 127 countries. The survey named Iceland as the country in which gay men feel most accepted and happiest to live in, followed by their Nordic neighbors Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. Israel ranked above the United Kingdom (23) and also above the United States (26). Germany’s Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz and the gay dating network PlanetRomeo collaborated to complete this study.
Two major legal cases in Israel involved homosexuality. On Jan. 10, Tel Aviv District Court, acting as an IDF appeals committee, ordered the army to recognize Adir Steiner as the common-law spouse of the late Col. Doron Maisel and to grant him benefits as an IDF widower.
Maisel, who died of cancer in November 1991, had lived with Steiner since 1984. The two shared finances and their relationship was public knowledge. Steiner asked the army for the compensation it pays bereaved spouses and for recognition as Maisels spouse for memorial purposes. The army refused, saying that only heterosexual couples qualify.
Steiners attorney argued that the law does not rule out common-law spouses of the same sex and that the IDFs position was discriminatory. The committee ruled that a woman in Steiners position would be eligible for the benefitsas the law applies to both married and common-law spousesand that he was being denied them merely because he is male. The committee accepted the appellants claim that the law applies equally to relations between members of the same sex. The IDF appealed to Jerusalem District Court, claiming that the language of the law governing IDF pensions cannot be interpreted to entitle same-sex partners.
Steiner had filed two other petitions as well. In early February, in response to one of themfiled with the High Court of Justice in July 1996Defense Minister Itzchak Mordechay announced that his ministry would recognize Steiner as if he were a family member in memorial matters. This status would allow him to attend and receive free transportation to memorial services, contribute to an entry in a memorial book, and receive a grant with which to memorialize Maisel. Steiner had argued that the benefits are given to live-in heterosexual partners and that, according to the Danilowitz precedent, homosexual partners are equally entitled to them. The Steiner decision was more far-reaching than the Danilowitz ruling, which dealt with a private contract; gay-rights activists expect the former to have ramifications for the entire public sector. In Steiners third suit, he sought recognition as the widower of a fallen soldier on the grounds that Maisels cancer was caused by exposure to the sun during his IDF service; in early 1998, Steiner was appealing a verdict in favor of the Defense Ministry.
The other case concerned Education Minister Zevulun Hammers decision to scuttle the broadcast of an Educational Television program on homosexual teenagers. On the program, part of ETVs Open Cards series, homosexual teens and the mother of a homosexual boy told their stories to a teenage audience, followed by questions and comments from the audience. It was originally slated to be aired on Oct. 10, 1996. Hammer postponed it to Nov. 21, but on Nov. 20 said he was postponing it again in order to review it personally. No new date was set. In early January Hammers media advisor told the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women that Hammer was delaying the program because he considered its message inappropriate for an educational medium.
On Jan. 13, 1997, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), joined by the Lesbian Feminist Community and the Association for the Protection of Individual Rights of Homosexuals, Lesbians, and Bisexuals in Israel, petitioned the High Court to overturn Hammers decision. ACRI argued that the Education Minister has no authority to interfere with ETV programming. Furthermore, alleged the petitioners, Hammers decision violated freedom of expression. They asserted that one-third of teen suicides are related to homosexuality; the program was extremely important, because it shows homosexual teenagers that they are not alone and gives heterosexual teens a better understanding of their homosexual peers.
There were two main issues: Did the program present homosexuality in a one-sided manner that encouraged teens to try it themselves? Was the program appropriate for an educational series? Hammer contended that the program was definitely one-sided. He supported his view with the opinions of experts who asserted that it lacked balance, ignored social values, and encouraged homosexual experimentation. According to these experts, the program should be made more balanced and should be moved to a non-educational television channel. The petitioners submitted the opposing opinions of other experts.
On Sept. 21, the High Court ordered Hammer to permit the program to be aired. In his decision, Justice Yaakov Kedmi wrote that homosexuality per se is no longer a deviation to be fought. As for the argument that the program did not belong on an educational television station, Kedmi wrote that education is a broad concept and therefore the program qualifies as educational. He agreed that it was not balanced but insisted that this flaw did not make it anti-educational. Although the justices ruled that Hammer could not prevent the broadcast, they said that opponents could express their opinion in a complementary discussion at the end of the program.
Six individuals were stabbed at the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade on July 30, 2015, by an Ultra-Orthodox Jew. The attacker, Yishai Schlissel, had been released from prison just weeks prior after completing a 12 year sentence for stabbing three individuals at the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade in 2005. Schlissel emerged behind spectators at the rally and began stabbing wildly and screaming, before being apprehended by security personnel. While being questioned, Schlissel asserted that he did not accept the rulings and authority of the Israeli courts because they were not based in the Torah. One of Schlissel's victims, 16 year old Shira Banki, died of her stab wounds a few days after the attack. Schlissel was convicted of murder and multiple charges of attempted murder on April 19, 2016, and he could face life in prison.
Following the opening of the mixed-gender prayer space at Robinson's Arch, transexual Jewish people could pray for the first time without fear of having to misgendering themselves at the Kotel. The site is managed by a government appointed pluralistic council including Orthodox and non-Orthodox representatives.
The Knesset officially designated February 23, 2016, as the state of Israel's official LGBT rights day. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the Knesset marking the occasion, claiming that he had come to say one thing to the Israeli LGBT community: every person was created in the image of God. Amir Ohana, a gay Knesset member from Netanyahu's Likud party, compared LGBT peoples to Jews, who throughout history have been “hated for no reason, persecuted, discriminated against and faced forced conversion.” Although it was a celebratory atmosphere as the Knesset honored the first LGBT rights day, they failed to pass legislation the following day that would have recognized same-sex widows of slain soldiers, recognized civil unions, banned conversion therapy for minors, and required medical professionals to study gender and sexual orientation as part of their licensing process.
Popular Israeli professional basketball player Gili Mosinzon announced that he is bi-sexual in a Facebook posting on May 12, 2016, Israel's Independence day. Mosinzon plays small forward for the Maccabi Bat Yam basketball team, and is generally considered one of Israel's best basketball players. In his 2,000 word post, Mosinzon spoke on issues of modern homophobia in sports, and stated that some of his fellow athletes have chosen suicide over “coming out of the closet.”
The first ever Miss Trans Israel contest is slated to take place on May 27, 2016, in the Meskin Auditorium at the Habima Theater in Tel Aviv. The twelve contestants, all born biologically as men, competed for a $15,000 prize as well as a place in the Miss Trans Star 2016 contest to be held in Barcelona, Spain, and the Miss International Queen 2016 contest held in Thailand. The winner from Miss Trans Star 2015, Miss Chile Vanessa Lopez, crowned Christian Israeli-Arab Ta’alin Abu Hanna as the first ever Miss Trans Israel.
In July 2016 the city of Beersheba's first ever gay pride march was cancelled, after the route was altered by the Israeli Supreme Court due to concerns of violence in the area.
Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced on December 8, 2016, that the naturalization process for same-sex couples in Israel would from then on be the same as the process for heterosexual couples. For heterosexual couples the transition period to full citizenship took approximately four years; but the Israeli Gay Fathers Association asserted in a petition to Mandelblit that it was not uncommon for homosexual couples to have to wait seven years or more. On top of this, the couples were often granted permanent residency instead of citizenship. The organization lauded the decision as “a huge victory against discrimination for same sex couples.”
Sources: Israel Yearbook & Almanac 1998, pp. 257–258;
“The Gay Happiness Index.” PlanetRomeo.com;
“Jerusalem Gay Pride: Six stabbed by ultra-Orthodox Jew,” BBC News, (July 30, 2015);
“The Western Wall Fight Ends in Historic Compromise.” Times of Israel (January 2016);
Harkov, Lahav. “Netanyahu voices support for gay rights on Knesset LGBT Day,” Jerusalem Post, (February 23, 2016);
Newman, Marissa. “Day after marking LGBT rights, Knesset nixes 5 gender equality bills,” Times of Israel (February 24, 2016);
“Israeli pro basketball player comes out as bisexual in Independence day post,” Jerusalem Post (May 13, 2016);
Atwan, Shachar. “Transcending beauty: Israeli beauty pageant for transgender women signals desire for normalcy,” Haaretz (May 17, 2016);
“Transgender Israeli Arab wins historic Tel Aviv pageant,” JTA, (May 27, 2016);
“Gay pride march in Israeli city cancelled after court restricts it,” AP (July 14, 2016);
Shimoni, Mor. “Israel to ease citizenship process for same-sex couples,” Jerusalem Post, (December 8, 2016) ;