‘Hoshen’ Educates Israelis Not to Hate Gays

An LGBT-themed video, that went viral in Israel during Tel Aviv’s Pride in June, gets an English translation in order to engage LGBT Jews in America and Europe as the new Jewish year arrives.

The video, produced by Hoshen, Israel’s education for LGBT inclusion arm, focuses on Amit, a baby who has been neglected by her mom, as a symbol to LGBT people who are rejected by their families. “Amit is a unisex name in Israel,” explains Eyal Filiba, Hoshen executive and the force behind the video, “and in addition, we don’t say which closet Amit came out of (trans, gay and lesbian, or bixesual.)”

“The idea is to show that Amit can be any one, any of the LGBT letters,” Eyal adds. “Ultimately what is common to all LGBT people is that their peaceful tranquil life story is interrupted to some extent, when they decide to express diversity in terms of sexual orientation or gender orientation.”

Over the past few years Hoshen has been building itself into a professional center for education and knowledge on LGBT equality, and last year was the first year they got into creating viral videos especially for Gay Pride. “Last year I created ‘When did you choose to be straight?,’ a video which was a takeoff on a video produced in the US,” explains Eyal, “and we realized that a viral video is a great way to reach new audiences and create public interest in our operating environment. Also, these videos are produced at no cost. All volunteers.”

Hoshen delivered the brief as an in-class assignment for students of ‘Habeit’zeffer, a school for advertising in Tel Aviv, and received about 20 finished ideas, from which the team of Hoshen’s executives selected the concept “We can change this.”

“’We can change this’ sits in the heart of all our activities,” explains Eyal. “Its very core is to change the LGBTphobia from the bottom. To go through student by student, soldier by soldier, teacher by teacher and change or move something in their old perceptions and instill a new concept: that being LGBT is only sexual orientation and not a reason to discriminate, harm and curse.”

The ‘We Can Change This’ video, written and produced by Ido Cohen, was launched on YouTube and Facebook in June , and thanks to Hoshen’s friends in Ireland who sponsored the campaign in Israel, the video reached a total of 40, 000 views, and not only delivered big donations to the organization, but also 10 new volunteers.

“As the High Holidays arrived we decided to translate the video into English and release it carrying the same message, because we know that many American Jews have a strong relationship with Israel and a desire to know what’s going on here and maybe help create a better life for their families who live here,“ Eyal explains.

Despite the still existing LGBTphobia, and especially transphobia in Israel, according to Itay Harlap, chairman at Hoshen, Israel is more advanced than the US in its laws to protect LGBT people. “I think that in Israel, just like the United States, there are places that have a very high acceptance of LGBT people, or at least gays and lesbians, and cities where there’s a lack of acceptance, LGBTphobia, and even extreme verbal and physical violence,” Itay says. “In Israel, however, there’s more significant legislation protecting LGBT rights, and more recently there has been a significant improvement with respect to transgenders. Moreover, Israel has one law for all, and the United States has large gaps between the different states. “

“Having said that, in the United States it’s easier to avoid areas where there’s LGBTphobia and to completely disconnect both from the state and the family. In Israel there is often nowhere to run, and Tel Aviv is four hours by car from the the most remote place. The Israeli family ties tend to be stronger, especially during Jewish holidays, which makes it difficult for a complete dissociation,” he adds.

Which community in Israel is the most LGBTphobic and difficult to change?

Itay: “Right now we are light years away from working with the Haredi community in Israel, and I do not see that changing in the coming years. Two of the communities that are more difficult, with which we have actually started a little work, are the orthodox Jewish population (knitted Yarmulkes) and the Arab population. Although both of these communities are very conservative on average, they are not monolithic, and I believe we can slowly change there too. And there are groups who are already working for change. Hoshen is currently working both with orthodox and Arab LGBT organizations with the goal of making this change.”

“But we have to remember that even a child of secular Jewish parents from the center of country can become a victim of LGBTphobia, either from parents or the social environment. Children are being thrown out of their homes in all social classes and regions in Israel. And the purpose of Hoshen is to continue to lead the society to change its attitudes through our educational action.”

About the Author
Yanir Dekel has a decade of experience in entertainment, journalism, and digital media in Israel and the U.S. He headed PR for Helicon Records - one of the top two Record Labels in Israel - for several years before moving to LA in April of 2009. Yanir now works as an "Online Outreach" and content administration freelancer, managing content and social media, as well as providing graphics for online and print.