During my trip to Israel with the Wexner Heritage Program in 2013, I extended my travels so I could attend the LGBT March in Jerusalem. I was moved to see the diversity of that event. Religious, secular and transgender people marching under a sea of rainbow flags, hand-in-hand, through the ancient city of faith. It was a beautiful experience. I felt safe with the security surrounding us despite knowing that many Jerusalemites saw us as evil sinners.  The occasional stink bomb was hurled at us, but it had been eight long years since marchers were attacked by an ultra-Orthodox man with a knife. Hadn’t there been progress since then? 

I was shocked when I learned of the stabbing attack on six marchers, ultimately leading to the death of 16-year old Shira Banki earlier this week. How could this be happening? And by the same attacker from ten years ago. 

While it seems as if progress has been made, many ultra-Orthodox voices still speak of the LGBT population in derogatory and inflammatory language. (For example, see this recent article by LGBT activist Jay Michaelson.) These words of hate motivate attackers who seek justification for their brutal acts.

Members of the Jerusalem LGBT community shouldn’t feel like they have to move to the more inclusive and LGBT-friendly city of Tel Aviv.  The Jerusalem Open House of Pride and Tolerance, leading the response to this recent tragedy, is doing important work to strengthen the LGBT community in Jerusalem.  They manifest the leadership quality we learned about in Wexner: perseverance.

We need to match that grit. We cannot be complacent and we cannot be afraid. Now it is even more important that we stand side-by-side and hand-in-hand with the LGBT population in Jerusalem and all of Israel. Let’s not permit violence and hatred to stop the largest delegation of LGBT Jews from North America from going to Israel next summer. I’m going — will you join me? And if you are not LGBT, consider planning a trip or mission to Israel next year to overlap with the Tel Aviv March (June 3rd, 2016) or the Jerusalem March (early August). And if you are a Wexner Israel Fellowship alum, LGBT or not, hope to see you there.


Sam Goldman, a Wexner Heritage alum (SF 11), is the California Program Director for the Conservation Lands Foundation, a leading conservation organization working to protect America’s Western public lands. Previously, Sam coordinated California wilderness campaigns for the Wilderness Society. He worked to help pass the Omnibus Public Land Management Act, which protects 2.2 million acres of wilderness across the country. Sam is active in the Jewish community and is on the board of Wilderness Torah and is Co-Chair of the LGBT Alliance of the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation. Sam can be reached at samuelrgoldman@gmail.com.