The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender leaders — from advocacy organizations, government and academia — visited the center on Monday, the first day of their weeklong mission. The center is owned and operated by the city of Tel Aviv.
“None of us are aware of another municipality where they are solely funding the LGBT community center,” said Malcolm Lazin, executive director of the Equality Forum, a national and international LGBT civil rights organization with an educational focus.
Lazin is leading the delegation, which along with exploring partnerships and collaborations with their Israeli counterparts is learning about the difficult issues facing Israel and the region. The seminar is under the auspices of Project Interchange, a nonprofit educational institute of the American Jewish Committee.
Lazin and the LGBT seminar participants learned Tuesday that common law marriage for same-sex couples is recognized in Israeli courts, though they cannot be married in Israel. The group is scheduled to meet with Israeli jurists to discuss Israel’s approach to marriage recognition.
“The people in our group came here recognizing Israel is more progressive, but we’re learning what that really means,” Lazin said.
Other participants in the seminar include Kevin Naff, editor and co-owner of the Washington Blade, an LGBT news publication; Kirk Fordham, executive director of Gill Action, which provides resources to individuals and organizations working to advance equality; and Gregory Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, which represents gay conservatives and allies.
“Places in the world I have especially enjoyed include Israel, which left a very powerful impression on me,” he wrote in the Mail ahead of the release this week of his latest album, “Love In Portofino.”
Last year, he also confessed his love of Israel to the UK Telegraph. “A country that has really resonated with me and I was really impressed with was Israel. I found that the whole country had a very special atmosphere. I was there to perform but it was one of the few places that I’ve visited over the years that I had some free time to explore, and I was hugely impressed by all the religious history there,” he said at the time.
Bocelli visited Israel in 2011 performing at Masada in collaboration with members of the Rishon Lezion Symphonic Orchestra and the opera choir. Prior to that he visited the Jewish state in 2008 as part of a celebration for President Shimon Peres’s birthday.
Bocelli write in the Daily Mail that touring takes up lots of his time. “Unfortunately, when I’m performing, the schedule usually takes me from the hotel to the concert hall and then to the airport. If I made more time when I’m abroad, it would mean spending less time at home with my family. And my family is the most important thing to me,” he said.
“My favorite concert is the one I do every year in the Teatro del Silenzio (Theatre of Silence), an open-air amphitheater situated in Lajatico, my home town. The theater hosts a concert by me once every July and lies silent the rest of the year. I perform here with special guests and it’s a wonderful occasion. Come to Tuscany for its beauty, but come next year and enjoy my music too,” he enthused.
Bocelli, who was born with glaucoma and lost his sight at the age of 12, has won fans across the globe and has sold over 80 million albums worldwide.
Full List via Lonely Planet
I’m 30 and I’m a nomad. I’ve never held a job or had a home, I’ve never studied and I don’t own a car. Every week I meet dozens of people I have never seen before and I have friends in every corner of the world.
My backpack weighs 13 kg (28 lbs), and once I had a tent, but I lost it after taking very potent African mushrooms. I love photography and getting acquainted with new cultures. I have no property or money – but I’m happy.
It all started a little more than eight years ago. After three years in Golani, like all Israelis who complete their army service, I traveled to the Far East. I landed in Bangkok and from there went straight to Thailand’s magical islands, which seemed to me at the time like heaven on earth.
Day in and day out I would sit on the white sands basking in the sun, then lunch and a massage. At nights I would party, drink and dance on the shore, meet beautiful women and – if lady luck was on my side – go with them back to my bungalow. The day after, I’d wake up with a headache, and begin the cycle again.
After two months of doing nothing else, I felt empty, so I decided to fly to Nepal – a quiet and spiritual place – and then I moved to New Zealand and Australia, where I saw beautiful cliffs and beautiful women and danced with thousands of people.
I was in the East for a few more months before I landed back in the Holy Land. As soon as I returned, the Second Lebanon War began, and I was whisked away for reserve service, and within days I found myself lying on the roof of a ruined house in Lebanon. As soon as the war was over, I packed my bag, hugged my mom and left Israel without knowing if and when I would return.
I traveled in North America and then the Caribbeans. Afterwards I moved onto Mexico and then crossed the entire continent all the way to Brazil, sleeping on pyramids and in whore houses, island hopping and losing myself in food and history.
As time passed, my nomadic instinct grew. I had been on the road for three years, homeless and without a job, no education, no future and most of all with not a cent to my name – but I was happy.
So how did I survive? I embraced the methods of the wandering Jew: When I see a chance to make a few bucks – I go for it – and there were plenty of chances along the way. I worked as a landscaper in Australia, I owned – and later sold – a small business in South Africa which did well. But truth be told – I was more lucky than smart.
Despite having a blast in South Africa, I began traveling north along Africa’s eastern coast. For two years I went north, until I reached Ethiopia. I was in the Cougar Park in South Africa, which is only slightly larger than Israel and is the home of the five biggies – lions, hippopotamuses, elephants, rhinoceroses and buffalo – as well as countless others. I was at Lake Victoria in Zimbabwe, on the white shores on Zanzibar, I danced in Malawi, saw the Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and entrenched myself in Ethiopian culture.
Afterwards, I couch-surfed in Europe and then went back to South Africa for the World Cup, and then traveled to India with my sisters – visiting Israel in between. I crossed Europe through Central Asia to the east with the Trans-Siberian railway and then China to gigantic cities and remote villages.
But it wasn’t enough – I wanted something new; to go somewhere with no tourists. So I decided to see the real Africa and went to Senegal in a bid to cross Western Africa.
I met people who had never seen a Westerner, I met child-soldiers who raped and killed during war and still woke up sweating and crying at night.
I caused an old man to cry after he learned that I was from the Holy Land, and many people have sent notes scribbled with prayers for me to put in the Western Wall. The journey was tough and at times dangerous, but I met some of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life and I discovered the true meaning of freedom.
After a few crazy months, I then got on a flight to Cape Town to participate in an amazing festival called Africa Burn (the African version of Burning Man) – the best party on this side of the equator, if you ask my opinion.
Four months ago I arrived in Europe and since then I’ve been here. I’m now in Ireland, drinking beer everyday. A few years ago my dream was to travel to 100 states. Up until now, I’ve been to all of the continents and have been to 90 countries, so very soon my dream will come true and then I’ll have to find me a new one.
Israel and Canada have signed a first official aviation agreement, which will lead to a significant increase in flights between the two countries and allow other airlines to operate regular flights on the route.
Today, El Al offers four weekly flights between Tel Aviv and Toronto and Air Canada operates a daily flight.
Some 130,000 passengers take this route every year.
Giora Romm, director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel, says the agreement will help increase incoming tourism to Israel.
Israel has received an influx of American talent this week. There are those here for work, and others on vacation.
A group of TV actors are currently on a week-long tour of the country with American Voices in Israel, a program aiming to bolster Israel’s image in the United States by bringing over celebrities who will then hopefully become friends of Israel.
Trip participants include Switched at Birth and Back to the Future actress Lea Thompson, her director/producer husband Howard Deutch, and their daughters Zoey Deutch — who stars in the Harvey Weinstein-directed film, Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters — and musician Madelyn Deutch. Visitors not part of the talented family include C.S. Lee from Dexter, Sullivan & Son co-star Vivian Bang and Anson Mount of Hell on Wheels.
“We’ve always really wanted to come to Israel but we never got around to it,” said Thompson, whose husband and children are Jewish. “This is the perfect opportunity — not only to be able to collaborate with other artists, but to have a tour geared toward artists.”
Stops have so far included Yad Vashem, Tel Aviv and the Golan Heights, where the stars were treated to a VIP tour of the Golan Heights Winery to discover Israel’s award winning wine.
For Thompson, though, one of the most enlightening parts of the trip has been time spent away from the tourist attractions, at the homes of regular Israelis.
“It’s impossible to understand a place this complicated without visiting it and having conversations with people there,” she said while en route to a Shabbat dinner. “I’ve learned that Israel is in a lot of ways like America in that you’re allowed to have a different opinion. There’s a lot of messiness in a democracy, so it feels familiar in that way.”