Jerusalem’s gay oasis under threat from financial crisis

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A community centre for the gay community in Jerusalem is facing closure because of the credit crunch.

A “high percentage” of Jerusalem Open House’s annual budget is built on grants and gifts from abroad.

In a letter to supporters JOH said: “we are already feeling the pinch, as the flow of funds slows down.

“JOH is the only LGBT organisation in Israel to be so detrimentally affected by this world crisis. Activity has grown over the last years, directly increasing our expenditure.

“The lack of self-generating income and adequate funding from the Jerusalem municipality has forced us to rely on gifts from abroad, more than other LGBT organisations.”

For the past seven years JOH has held Pride events in Jerusalem, in the face of opposition from religious groups.

In 2005 a man stabbed three Pride participants and was subsequently sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The following year the venue was switched to a sports stadium following violent protests by rightwing opponents who consider the event “a profanity” of the Holy City.

Last year about 2,500 gays and activists marched down King David Street despite protests by thousands of people.

This year Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a petition to ban Jerusalem Gay Pride parade.

JOH also provides a place for LGBT people of all religions and political views to come together.

“Firstly, I would like to remind you of a number of successes, which demonstrate the necessity of the JOH for the city of Jerusalem: diverse cultural and social activities; growing community participation; highly-attended Kabbalot Shabbat; strengthening of the ‘reception’ team; a sane and safe parade; moving of the Open Clinic to the JOH centre and larger numbers of people tested; growing activities for youth and young adults; new programmes and initiatives in the offing,” JOH said.

“JOH presently finds itself in a serious cash flow situation, the most serious ramification of which is the delay in paying salaries to our staff.

“Grants and gifts that were supposed to arrive have not done so on time.

“Some will still be paid, but regarding others, we are not sure if the donors will be able to hold by their commitment or make their annual donation.

“The main cause of the present problem is two long-standing annual grants that have not yet been received.

“We are initiating a series of cuts, some of them quite sweeping: lowering the hours of all staff by an average of 50% and additional reduction in other expenses. At the same time, we will also increase our fundraising efforts in Israel and abroad.

“I would like to request that you, members of the JOH and the LGBT community in Jerusalem and Israel, as well as all our supporters, take part in ensuring the orderly continuation of activities at the JOH.

“We do not only need your material help, in funding and operating our various programs, but also your “spiritual” support, by participating in our diverse activities.”

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