Connect with us
Seder Passover
Israel Bonds RRSP
JNF Canada


Israel has been an LGBTQ haven in the Middle East. Its new government could change that.

(JTA) — The minister holding the country’s purse strings calls himself a “proud homophobe.” Another minister says Pride parades are “vulgar,” while a deputy minister who wants to cancel them was just given power over some aspects of what schoolchildren are taught. And then there are the lawmakers who want doctors to be able to decline medical care to LGBTQ people.

These are all members of the new Israeli government helmed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and their extreme anti-LGBTQ sentiment has unnerved LGBTQ Israelis and their allies at home and overseas. 

The politicians’ positions are not new, but their positions of power and leverage within the government are. Plus, the new government’s push toward a judicial overhaul that would give lawmakers the right to overrule the Supreme Court adds vulnerability to legal precedents that have protected LGBTQ Israelis.

“The majority of the gay community in Israel is feeling very unsafe,” said Hila Peer, the chairwoman of Aguda-The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel. “You have at least an intention to legislate laws that are dire for the gay community.”

Could Israel cease to be a haven for LGBTQ people in a hostile region? Netanyahu and others in his coalition say they are committed to protecting gay rights, but the volatile political situation means the future is hard to predict. Here’s what you need to know.

Where did LGBTQ Israelis stand before this government?

Israel is known as a gay haven in the Middle East, and Tel Aviv is frequently cited as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, with a Pride parade that draws hundreds of thousands of revelers from Israel and abroad. But the full picture is more complicated.

Same-sex marriage is not legal in Israel. Still, like other couples not recognized by the country’s religious establishment, LGBTQ couples can access the legal benefits of marriage.

Israel’s religious institutions control marriage for each of its constituent faiths, and the Jewish rabbinate hews to Orthodoxy. That means a slew of couples cannot marry in the country: interfaith couples; marriages between Jews in which one of the couple is not recognized as Jewish under Orthodox precepts; marriages between a man and a woman who was not divorced under religious law; marriages between a “Cohen,” or descendant of a Jewish high priest, and a divorced woman; and LGBTQ couples.

Under Israeli law, those relationships are nonetheless recognized as legal for the purposes of benefits, inheritance, parenting, adoption and other rights, if the couple is wed abroad, or in certain cases if the couple can simply prove a longstanding common-law relationship. 

Israel’s Supreme Court has been essential to extending marriage rights to LGBTQ couples. In 2006, the court ruled that the country must recognize same-sex marriages performed abroad. In 2021, the court extended the right to same-sex couples to have children via surrogates, and last year, a lower court recognized marriages carried out remotely, which effectively allows same-sex marriages in which the couple, if not the officiant, is in Israel.

Other protections have come through the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, though less so in recent years. A rarely enforced ban on homosexual relations was taken off the books in 1988, and the army began allowing openly gay service members in 1993 — the same year the U.S. armed forces adopted a policy permitting gay service members only if they remained closeted.

In 1992, the Knesset passed a law banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, with some religious exceptions. In 1997, the Knesset extended to the LGBTQ community protections from defamatory language that are available to other communities. And in 2000, it passed the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, Services and Entry into Places of Entertainment and Public Places Law, which forbids the denial of services to any class of people, including based on sexual orientation.

Despite the legal protections, LGBTQ Israelis have long faced opposition from within the haredi Orthodox sector, where rabbis inveigh against homosexuality and politicians have vowed to run the country according to Orthodox interpretations of Jewish law. Jerusalem’s smaller Pride parade has frequently attracted extremist protesters from the sector, some of them violent. One teenage participant was murdered in 2015.

What changes do members of the current government want to make?

Politicians from the religious parties in the new government have floated multiple changes to laws and regulations that would diminish the status of LGBTQ Israelis.

The Religious Zionist Party, one of three in the Religious Zionist Bloc, is led by Bezalel Smotrich, who has called himself a “proud homophobe” and has envisioned Israel as a theocracy. At least two members of the bloc, including Orit Strok, say a proposed law would allow service providers, including physicians, to decline treatment to LGBTQ people.

Another party in the bloc, Noam, is led by Avi Maoz, who wants to cancel Pride parades. He also advocates for conversion therapy, a practice shown to increase the risk of suicide for LGBTQ people who experience it. Maoz, who was given a new role in charge of “Jewish identity,” was confirmed on Sunday to a Ministry of Education position with authority over external programming in schools.

Even the minister responsible for maintaining relations with Diaspora Jews has expressed anti-LGBTQ sentiment. Amichai Chikli favors recognition of same-sex relationships but derides LGBTQ “pride,” says he finds the annual pride parade to be “vulgar” and believes that sexual expression should be “subdued.” He has also said that the LGBTQ rainbow flag is an antisemitic symbol.

For now, these proposals and ideas exist in the realm of rhetoric. But the deal between Netanyahu’s party, Likud, and United Torah Judaism, the haredi Orthodox bloc, spells out that the 2000 prohibition-of-discrimination law will be amended “in a way that will prevent any harm to a private business that withholds services or products based on religious belief, as long as the product or service is not unique and a similar product or service is available nearby geographically and for a similar price.”

Both opponents and defenders of the change say it echoes recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have allowed evangelical Christian wedding retailers to decline services to same-sex couples.

That’s a license to discriminate, said Peer. “The Discrimination Act amendment will actually state that any person in Israel can be discriminated against based on ‘belief’ and that is simply a horrible situation for us to be in,” she said.

Is Netanyahu on board with anti-LGBTQ proposals?

Not directly. Netanyahu has never made anti-LGBTQ sentiment core to his governance, and he has been critical of anti-LGBTQ expressions by his coalition partners this month. He called the idea of letting medical providers deny care to LGBTQ patients “unacceptable” and has appointed a close ally who is gay, Amir Ohana, as Knesset speaker. (Some haredi lawmakers refused to look at Ohana, and a leading rabbi affiliated with Shas, one of the coalition partners, said Ohana was infected with a “disease.”) Netanyahu also opposed Maoz’s call to cancel the Jerusalem Pride parade.

Netanyahu has pointed to LGBTQ rights when insisting — as he has done frequently — that he is in control of his government, despite the prominent positions awarded to its extremist members.

“This Israel is not going to be governed by Talmudic law,” he told opinion journalist Bari Weiss. “We’re not going to ban LGBT forums. As you know, my view on that is sharply different, to put it mildly. We’re going to remain a country of laws. I govern through the principles that I believe in.”

But Netanyahu’s concessions to the far-right parties made to smooth his path back into power have his critics concerned that he may not keep his word on LGBTQ rights. The coalition agreement about the discrimination law, while not binding, indicates that he is willing to compromise. 

Peer said Netanyahu’s signed pledge to the Religious Zionist bloc held more water with her than his protestations afterward.

“Why give the man the keys if you’re not going to let him drive the car?” she said.

Furthermore, even if Netanyahu prevents anti-LGBTQ laws from reaching the books, he backs proposed changes to the judiciary that would make vulnerable protections obtained through the courts. 

How does the controversial judiciary overhaul proposal factor in?

The main action taken so far by Netanyahu’s new government relates to the country’s judiciary. His new justice minister, Yariv Levin, has proposed letting a Knesset majority of 61 members to override the Supreme Court if the Court strikes down a law. Levin has also proposed letting the Knesset majority appoint the majority on the panel responsible for appointing judges.

Those proposals, which are moving through the legislative process with Netanyahu’s support, would “in the long run totally and almost surely infringe on the rights” of LGBTQ Israelis, according to Amir Fuchs, a senior researcher at the nonpartisan Israel Democracy Institute’s Center for Democratic Values and Institutions.

“The coalition will have total power to appoint the judges which means they will be a lot more conservative, more religious,” Fuchs said. “If the Supreme Court will have been captured by a coalition which is very religious, very nationalist, very conservative, then we cannot rely anymore on the Supreme Court to further progress the rights” for LGBTQ people, or for others at risk of marginalization. He said the changes would likely result in a majority of right-wing judges within four to six years.

The proposals have drawn criticism from nonpartisan watchdogs, international legal experts and Israel’s left, which views the judiciary as an essential bulwark against theocratic governance. An estimated 100,000 people protested against the proposals in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, and more protests are planned. 

But a majority of Israelis appear to support allowing the Knesset to override Supreme Court rulings, according to a poll released Monday by the Israel Democracy Institute

Do anti-LGBTQ measures have public support in Israel?

No. Polls show the majority of Israelis back equal treatment for the LGBTQ community.

“We have an extreme right-wing group that is threatening to make changes that the vast majority of the public does not stand behind,” Peer said.

Fuchs said a backlash would likely inhibit, at least in the short term, the passage of any proposed laws targeting the LGBTQ community. 

“There is a strong support of LGBTQ rights, so it won’t be easy to pass laws that bluntly and openly infringe upon LGBTQ rights,” he said.

Some backlash has already occurred. Strok’s speculation that doctors could deny service to LGBTQ people immediately spurred a social media video montage of staff for 10 medical service providers in Israel in which they repeated, “We treat everyone!” One of the speakers was a Hasidic male urgent care nurse, in a sign that even Orthodox sectors might not support extreme actions.

But Smotrich says he believes his party’s supporters are not bothered by anti-LGBTQ efforts.

“A Sephardi or a traditional Jew, do you think he cares about gays? He couldn’t care less. He says, ‘Do you think I care that you [Smotrich] are against them?’” Smotrich said in a private conversation with a businessman that the public broadcaster Kan published on Monday. (The coalition is also threatening to defund Kan.) In the comments, Smotrich outlined some limits on his activism. “I’m a fascist homophobe, but I’m a man of my word,” he said. “I won’t stone gays.”

What are LGBTQ activists in Israel and the Diaspora saying and doing?

LGBTQ Israelis are playing a crucial role in the mounting anti-government protests, activating a network that put some 100,000 people in the streets in 2018 after Netanyahu voted against a bill to allow gay couples to use surrogacy. 

And even without any concrete changes taking place yet, LGBTQ activists say talk is already creating a hostile environment

Ethan Felson, the CEO of A Wider Bridge, a U.S. organization that advocates for Israel’s LGBTQ community — and stands up for Israel within the LGBTQ community — likened the language in the coalition agreements to U.S. party platforms, which do not necessarily influence policy but set a tone nonetheless.

“It can foreshadow, or it could be words on a page,” Felson said. “But those words should never be on any page. I heard from the mom of [an Israeli] trans kid this morning just how fearful they are for their families, their security. We know all too well that when people say bad things in one place we can expect other people to act out in hateful ways in another.”

Felson, whose past is in Israel advocacy — for years he directed the Jewish Federation of North America’s Israel Action Network — suggested that the part of his current job advocating for Israel in the U.S. LGBTQ community just got a lot harder.

“I would not like to wake up and find out that Kanye West is in charge of the Civil Rights Department over at Justice,” is how he described the challenge, referring to the rapper and designer who in recent months has come out as an antisemite.

Felson’s group is urging U.S. Jews who meet with politicians from the new government to raise concerns about LGBTQ Israelis. It is also planning to call on pro-Israel funders to fill any budget gap created if the Israeli government slashes funds for LGBTQ services, as Felson expects it to be.

A Wider Bridge is also planning to forego its traditional presence at Tel Aviv Pride to instead join the Jerusalem parade, which takes place in a more fraught atmosphere, according to Felson.

“There’s a time to protest and a time to party,” he said.

Stuart Kurlander, a philanthropist who is prominent in the LGBTQ and the pro-Israel communities, said that he is consulting with LGBTQ activists in Israel, and should things take a turn for the worse, making up for lost government funds could be one avenue for his philanthropy.

“If it develops and there are impacts to the LGBTQ community, then I along with other philanthropists will look to try and fill those gaps,” he said.

Kurlander said in an interview that he takes Netanyahu and Ohana at their word that they will stem an anti-LGBTQ backlash. He said his support for Israel would not be diminished if the changes by the extremists go through, but that other donors might be negatively affected.

“It’s not going to deter me and my support for Israel,” he said. “I suspect it may for some.”

The post Israel has been an LGBTQ haven in the Middle East. Its new government could change that. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply


Canada’s economic growth projected to be about 1% in the first half of 2024

Canada is a country with a thriving Jewish community and has traditionally offered the security of a strong economy for residents. The national economic outlook is naturally something that everyone in Canada’s Jewish community keeps track of – especially those involved in business in the various provinces.

With this in mind, the July 2023 Monetary Policy Report from the Bank of Canada made for interesting reading, projecting a moderate economic growth figure of around 1% for the first half of 2024. This is in line with growth figures that had been forecast for the second half of 2023, and sees the country’s economy remain on a stable footing.

Steady projected growth for first half of 2024

Although projected economic growth of around 1% in early 2024 is not as impressive as figures of around 3.4% in 2022 and 1.8% in 2023, it is certainly no cause for alarm. But what might be behind it?

Higher interest rates are one major factor to consider and have had a negative impact on household spending nationally. This has effectively seen people with less spending power and businesses in Canada generating less revenue as a result.

Interest rate rises have also hit business investments nationally, and less money is being channelled into this area to fuel Canada’s economic growth. When you also factor in how the weak foreign demand for Canadian goods and services has hit export growth lately, the projected GDP growth figure for early 2024 is understandable.

Growth in second half of 2024 expected

Although the above may make for interesting reading for early 2024, the Bank of Canada’s report does show that economic growth is expected to pick up in the second half of the year. This is projected to be due to the decreasing effect of high interest rates on the Canadian economy and a stronger foreign demand for the country’s exports.

Moving forward from this period, it is predicted that inflation will remain at around 3% as we head into 2025, and hit the Bank of Canada’s inflation target of 2% come the middle of 2025. All of this should help the country’s financial status remain stable and prove encouraging for business leaders in the Jewish community.

Canada’s economic growth mirrors iGaming’s rise

When you take a look at the previous growth figures Canada has seen and also consider the growth predicted for 2024 (especially in the second half of the year), it is clear that the country has a vibrant, thriving economy.

This economic growth is something that can be compared with iGaming’s recent rise as an industry around the country. In the same way as Canada has steadily built a strong economy over time, iGaming has transformed itself into a powerful, flourishing sector.

This becomes even clearer when you consider that Canadian iGaming has been a major contributor to the sustained growth seen in the country’s arts, entertainment and recreation industry, which rose by around 1.9% in Q2 of 2023. The healthy state of online casino play in Canada is also evidenced by how many customers the most popular casino platforms attract and how the user experience these operators offer has enabled iGaming in the country to take off.

This, of course, is also something that translates to the world stage, where global iGaming revenues in 2023 hit an estimated $95 billion. iGaming’s global market volume is also pegged to rise to around $130 billion by 2027. These kinds of figures represent a sharp jump for iGaming worldwide and show how the sector is on the ascent.

Future economic outlook for Canada in line with global expectations

When considering the Canadian economic outlook for 2024, it is often useful to look at how this compares with global financial predictions. In addition to the rude health of iGaming in Canada being reflected in global online casino gaming, the positive economic outlook for the country is also broadly in line with expectations for many global economies.

Global growth is also predicted to rise steadily in the second half of 2024 before becoming stronger in 2025. This should be driven by the weakening effects of high interest rates on worldwide economic prosperity. With rate cuts in Canada already expected after Feb 2024’s inflation report, this could happen in the near future.

The performance of the US economy is always of interest in Canada, as this is the country’s biggest trading partner. Positive US Q2 performances in 2023, powered by a strong labor market, good consumer spending levels and robust business investments, were therefore a cause for optimism. As a US economy that continues to grow is something that Canadian businesses welcome, this can only be a healthy sign.

Canada set for further growth in 2024

Local news around Canada can cover many topics but the economy is arguably one of the most popular. A projected GDP growth figure of around 1% for Canada’s economy shows that the financial state of the country is heading in the right direction. An improved financial outlook heading into the latter half of 2024/2025 would make for even better reading, and the national economy should become even stronger.

Continue Reading


The Legal Landscape of Online Gambling in Canada

Online gambling has grown in popularity around the globe in recent years. While many jurisdictions have legalized land-based gambling, it hasn’t applied to online platforms. Nonetheless, Canada is one nation that has legalized online gambling with their provinces’ licensing and regulating sites.

Nonetheless, Canadians of legal age can enjoy playing their favourite online games where available. So many games like slots, blackjack, and roulette still maintain their popularity even in the digital sense.  Want to learn about what’s legal in Canada for online gambling? Let’s take a look.

What is legal for online gambling in Canada?

What is the best online casino in Canada? The list we provide you here should be a good start. It’s also important to note that most Canadian provinces do not have laws that prohibit offshore online casinos.

Many provinces provide licensing to online casinos. They even regulate them as well. For example, Alberta and British Columbia have sites regulated by their respective governing bodies. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) allows legal online gambling and oversees the services it offers to Maritime provinces such as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

However, there are some caveats to address. In Newfoundland and Labrador, online gambling that is not offered by the ALC is considered illegal. Therefore, it is the only Canadian province as of 2024 that prohibits offshore options.

In terms of the legal age, there are three provinces where the legal age is 18: Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec. The remaining provinces establish 19 as the legal age for gambling including online.

Who are the regulatory bodies for gambling in Canada?

At the Federal level, the Canadian Gaming Association is the regulatory body for gambling in Canada. Thus, they cover both land-based and online gambling in the country. There are also provincial and regional regulatory bodies such as the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) – which covers the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.  

The Western Canada Lottery Corporation covers Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon Territory. A handful of provinces also have their regulatory bodies covering lottery and gaming.

Canada requires online casinos that wish to accept players from the country to adhere to regulations and licensing. These licenses are provided by provincial regulatory bodies. When licensed, online casinos must follow the regulations and security standards.

However, there is the belief that many of the laws about gambling in Canada may be outdated. This could be because these laws were created long before the advent of the Internet. Therefore, such laws may need to be modernized. Nonetheless, online gambling for the most part is legal, just dependent on the province.

Are there any legal grey areas to discuss?

The grey area that is considered a concern pertains to the use of offshore sites. As mentioned earlier, Newfoundland and Labrador is believed to be the only province that prohibits it. Even online casinos with no licensing by Canadian or provincial authorities accept residents of the country.

On the players’ end, many Canadians are allowed to play at online casinos. However, they may be restricted from certain platforms. This is to ensure that the players themselves are protected from unknowingly playing on platforms that may be illegal. 

What are the other laws and regulations about online gambling in Canada?

Online casinos have implemented measures for responsible gambling. This includes providing support and resources to problem gamblers on their site. They are also restricted regarding the marketing and advertising aspects of promoting their platform. 

One restriction of note is that marketing that is targeted at minors is prohibited. Another prohibits professional athletes from appearing in online casino ads in Ontario.

Even offshore casinos must adhere to these laws and regulations. Especially if they have obtained a license from the provincial bodies that allow them to operate.

Canada’s online gambling is legal – but will things change

As it stands right now, the legality of online gambling in Canada seems to fall under the purview of provincial laws and regulations. Canadian citizens must perform their due diligence further to see which online casinos are allowed by their respective provinces. Just because it may be legal in one province, it may not be the same in others.

Nonetheless, the question is: will any laws relax certain restrictions? Will Newfoundland and Labrador change their tune regarding offshore casinos? It’s unclear what the future holds – but watch this space for any changes about online gambling in Canada.  

Continue Reading



Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 - 2023 Jewish Post & News