At 3am we arrived at our hostel here in Tel Aviv and the party was still going strong. We, however, were not. After a terribly hot flight followed by a terribly cold one we were both physically and mentally exhausted. But we were also intrigued on what was to come.
The next morning, we got up after four hours of sleep. We were a tired gang moving through the rainy streets of Tel Aviv meeting up with Alon a representative from The Aguda, a national LGBT association. He gave us a tour which started at the municipal Gay Center in the Meir Park, a community building serving many different purposes, such as shelter, HIV testing, kindergarten for children of same-sex couples, synagogue etc. Progress in LGBT rights has improved rapidly in Israel, and Tel Aviv especially, this community center represents that progress. But LGBT rights have, of course, not always been where they are today. Alon showed us the entrance to a warehouse locale of only 15 m2 where the association was founded in the 70s.
When the tour finished, he pointed us towards a great hummus place where we ate delicious food whilst sheltered from the occasional downpours of torrential rain.
After our lunch, we were welcomed to The Aguda’s offices. An apartment made office that has housed many important LGBT events since its opening. A place that despite of its tragic backstory remains a place of hope and community. In 2009 a gunman entered an event for LGBT youth in the offices and began shooting at everyone. Tragically, two people died. Yet The Aguda was not be beaten and continues serving their community.
Today the association has many departments, one of which is the legal department. Nimrod and Omer told us about how they help connect LGBT people with the right lawyers and legal advice. They also told us about the legal struggles of LGBT people in Israel. The country has progressed immensely in terms of civil rights for LGBT people, for example in terms of laws against discrimination.
After meeting these wonderful guys I think we all longed for a more representative perspective of the community. In comes Chen Arieli! A feminist first, lesbian second. As Tilda would say “Fan vilken jävla människa!”, which roughly translates to “What a dynamically inspirational intellectual human being!”. She began the discussion with quoting Audrey Lorde: “The master’s tool will never dismantle the master’s house” to explain her personal struggle with working within what she regards a flawed system. Yet she has concluded that she can and will work within it to fight for civil rights. Because as she said: “Civil rights are civil rights are civil rights”. We had a mind-blowingly fascinating conversation with her and we never wanted to leave. Yet we did. After getting warm hugs, because this woman is amazing in every way.
Thanks to The Aguda and Erez who coordinated the day. This day was amazing and we are looking forward to six more.
/Valentina Ahlqvist, Emma From & Tilda Lundberg