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January 25, 2017 6:15 am

First-Ever Canadian LGBTQ Birthright Israel Trip Wants Participants to ‘Embrace Jewish State as Region’s Beacon of Acceptance’

avatar by Lea Speyer

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The Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv. Photo: Wikipedia.

The Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv. Photo: Wikipedia.

The first-ever Canadian LGBTQ Birthright Israel trip wants participants to “embrace and be proud of the Jewish state as a beacon — the only openly country in the Middle East that accepts the gay community,” one of the organizers told The Algemeiner on Tuesday. 

The 10-day trip will coincide with the summer’s Tel Aviv Pride Week, during which participants will “march alongside the general public and be able to experience the atmosphere and pride of the Israeli LGBTQ community,” said Canada Israel Experience’s (CIE) spokesperson, Aviva Sokolsky.

Participants will also explore some of the challenges facing Israel’s LGBTQ community and meet with local activists.

“Our umbrella is wide and accepting,” Sokolsky told The Algemeiner. “CIE hopes LGBTQ young adults will be left with a stronger sense of identity both to Israel and to the LGBTQ Canadian community when they return.”

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Israel has become a safe haven for many LGBTQ Middle Easterners who are persecuted for their sexual orientation. In 2011, Israel was ranked as the world’s most LGBTQ-friendly country by GayCities.com and American Airlines. It has held annual gay pride parades in major cities, including Jerusalem, for years. In 2014, the Hague Center for Strategic Studies, through its LGBT Military Index, ranked the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as one of the top 10 most gay-friendly armies.

Over the past 16 years, CIE has sent more than 32,000 Jewish Canadian young adults on free Birthright Israel experiences. The upcoming LGBTQ Birthright Israel trip, slated for June, is co-sponsored by the Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA.

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