Kahlon Meets With LGBT Leaders, Pledges to Increase NGO Budgets

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Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon met yesterday with the heads of the LGBT community in Israel and promised a significant increase in the budgets for their organizations.

Kahlon instructed the representatives of the ministry’s budget division to include support for the community’s organizations in the biannual budget. The meeting took place in the wake of the protest last month after it was discovered that the Tourism Ministry had allocated 11 million shekels ($2.9 million) to a campaign to encourage gay tourism to Israel, while the government gives all the community’s organizations combined less than 2 million shekels annually.

The meeting took place in the minister’s office, at the initiative of Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, and with the mediation of MK Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu). Participating were representatives of the gay community, including Chen Arieli, head of The Aguda — The Israeli National LGBT Task Force, Tel Aviv City Council members Efrat Tolkowsky and Yaniv Weizman, and deputy budget director Yael Mevorach. “Israeli democracy is strong enough to provide a protective umbrella to populations that are different, which constitute an integral part of the Israeli fabric,” said Kahlon at the meeting.

He told the representatives of the organizations that he is concerned most of all by the demonstrations of hatred against the LGBT community in Israel. “You have an open door and a listening ear in the treasury,” he promised them. Kahlon added that he is very concerned about the wave of incitement and hatred in Israeli society, which doesn’t skip over the gay community. “We’re determined to end it in any way possible,” he said.

Participants walk near the Knesset during a gay pride parade in Jerusalem. Credit: Reuters

“That was a trailblazing meeting,” said Arieli to Haaretz after the meeting. “I don’t think it’s at all self evident that the finance minister is willing to channel resources already this year. We’ll be very strong in ensuring that all this happens. We won’t let up until the money is transferred.”

She added, “The organizations are collapsing financially. Fighting for every shekel, all of us. Part of the problem is that many of the organizations have no pipelines to budgeting from the government.” She said they want to double the budget for the community’s organizations next year.

The Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv is planned for June 3, with the theme of empowerment of women. “The parade this year will be remembered as a historic one,” said Arieli. “Despite the meeting with the finance minister we still have a long way to go in our struggle. This is the parade in which the community has reclaimed the original values of the gay community worldwide. We will march with a call for recognition and full equal rights. There’s no question that the parade this year will be different in character. The messages, which may have dissolved somewhat in the Tel Aviv parade, will be much sharper and clearer than in previous years.”

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