by Carmella Ettinger & Ruth Thomas
We are writing while looking out at the Mediterranean Sea, one of the most beautiful sites in the world. We started these amazing two weeks overlooking the City of Jerusalem, a very different and still definitely, also one of the most beautiful sites in the world. We've had the amazing opportunity to explore both places with both our American and Israeli relatives and a fantastic group of committed, smart, interesting, charming members of the American LGBTQ community.
We met so many wonderful people on this trip who we look forward to spending time with again soon. We will be lucky enough to see and decompress with most of our new friends soon in Portland. We will decompress with other new friends at another desert city known as Burning Man.
We've also had the incredible opportunity (thank you Stuart and JNFA!) to meet so many interesting Israelis (and one Palestinian hero!) who are doing really hard, great work on behalf of all of us. One of our wonderful visits was with IGY (Israel Gay Youth) an organization that has received funding from the Portland Federation’s Overseas Special Projects committee. IGY has over 300 volunteers who are available at 70 locations around the country (it's a tiny country!) We were able to talk with the director of IGY (a very hard-working older lesbian in her 30s) as well as a young transgender woman and a young lesbian who lives in the orthodox community she grew up in. We are all hoping to help this organization more in the future.
And the culmination of this trip was being part of the biggest, most joyous Pride celebration that we have ever experienced. The streets were packed with wall-to-wall people (literally) celebrating and promoting our differences and our commonality. Over 200,000 people participated. And if we weren’t proud already to be Americans, we were joined by the American ambassador to Israel. How awesome is that! Thank you to all of you who made this happen. We look forward to seeing you soon. And we're already planning for our next trip to Eretz Yisrael!