Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Lessons from Israel: Tel Aviv's First out Lesbian Elected Official, Michal Eden, Talks about the Worldwide Struggle for Peace-Both Political and Personal. (Behind the Headlines)

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Lessons from Israel: Tel Aviv's First out Lesbian Elected Official, Michal Eden, Talks about the Worldwide Struggle for Peace-Both Political and Personal. (Behind the Headlines)

Article excerpt

When Michal Eden was elected to the Tel Aviv--Jaffa city council in 1998, she became the first openly gay elected official in Israel. She has campaigned for gay causes, including the founding of Israel's first hostel serving homeless and runaway lesbian and gay youth.

Eden spoke to The Advocate via E-mail from Israel about gay politics in her country and the toll terrorism has taken on both Israel and America.

How has your sexual orientation played out in your political career?

There was certainly static [during the city council campaign]. However, besides what was said behind closed doors, I did not face harsh homophobia from the Tel Aviv-Jaffa residents or my party, Meretz [the left-liberal party in Israel]. The most homophobia I dealt with was from home, where I was ousted by my father because of my sexual identity. It happened 10 years ago, and till this day he sees my public work as a personal revenge against him.

How has that experience contributed to your political work?

[Israel] might be perceived as progressive in terms of [gay people's] acquired legal status. However, homophobia remains a real problem for our youth. It has been one of my hardest battles to try to penetrate schools and promote programs of tolerance. It is especially sentimental for me, considering my personal experience with coming out to my family and losing them in the process. I was 20 years old and found myself homeless and penniless. I wish to establish a community-level base of support for anyone who is shunned because of their sexual orientation.

The past months have been very difficult for Americans and Israelis, as both nations deal with terrorism. What can Americans learn from Israelis, who have fought extremists for years?

I am not sure if the question is what Americans can learn from Israelis [but] what people can learn from history. History teaches us that fighting wars against desperate people who believe they are contributing to a struggle of freedom is futile. …

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