Project Description

Chen Arieli
Chen ArieliCo-President of the Aguda

Interview with Chen Arieli, Co-President of Aguda, by David Azoulay

1) First of all, could you tell the readers of our eNewsletter more about your personal and associative background? How does one become the president of Aguda? What motivations drive you?

We are, Imri Kalmann and I, the co-chairpersons of the Aguda for the past 2 years. Imri is a 30 year old businessman from Tel Aviv who volunteered with IGY and was one of the leaders of the TLV Gay Pride campaigns.  I am Chen Arieli, 40 year old feminist activist for the past 20 years, and I was the production manager of TLVfest and one of the funders of the caucus for women promotion in the community.

2) Could you tell us more about the association you head, the Aguda? Its history, its activities, its values and mission? And first of all, for non Hebrew  speakers, what is the meaning of Aguda?

The meaning of the word “Aguda” is the “gathering of people” and this is the vision of the organization. Our main goal is to form platforms that will unite the LGBT community within itself and with other communities in Israel.

3) We understand that Aguda is evolving towards an umbrella organization (just as the World Congress of GLBT Jews has been); what is the last activity or achievement that made you particularly  proud as president of Aguda?

The Aguda has come back to being an umbrella organization.  It is its historical role. We are proud of the achievements from our negotiations with the finance ministry and recently, we held a first in history seminar of all CEOs of LGBT organizations. The seminar discussed mutual challenges and goals and was working to find the best platform to write a united work plan for the Israeli LGBT community for 2017.

4) Tel Aviv is  famous for its liberal atmosphere, but it’s not always the case in other towns and cities, nor in some segments of Israeli society.  Do you have special programs to improve acceptance of LGBT persons in the periphery and for populations such as the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox)  and Arabs?

Two years ago, we started a project –  the gay van. The idea is to take responsibility over LGBT around the country – to understand and meet all our friends and community members, to get to know their special needs and life. We are working to strengthen our relationship with city councils and mayors to bring solutions for LGBT people in their towns. We also have a small support fund with our dear partners A Wider Bridge to support LGBT activism outside Tel Aviv.

5) Israel is sometimes accused of pinkwashing in the LGBT community and beyond. As president of an LGBT Israeli organization, what is your feeling about this controversy?

 Israel doesn’t have a united point of view regarding the LGBT community. We have traditional societies that have more difficulty with that issue and others.  In every activity that we have in Israel and abroad, we are placing the full picture, with all the complexities.  We have no desire to color the reality in rainbow colors – we are doing our best to find partners in every segment of the complicated Israeli society. We have a special project to help LGBT asylum seekers that is dealing with the Palestinian issue in the field.

6) The Aguda and The World Congress of GLBT Jews have a long history of collaboration; the last one was the 40 years of Pride in 2015 where The World Congress helped to invite prominent guest speakers and many participants from a dozen countries.  The Aguda has just rejoined the World Congress and we are delighted to welcome you again as a dues paying member. We hope that our global network will help our common cause to be more visible on an international level. What words would you have for our members ? 

We believe that the  Israeli LGBT community should be in the center of the LGBT Jewish arena, as Israel is the Jewish state and the homeland for all. It is time to move forward to discuss what can we give back to Israel as LGBTs not just what we need and want to get.
We are proud and honored to be invited to join again this important Congress and we look forward to lead meaningful discussions and achieve much in our mutual arenas.