Israel, known as the ‘gay capital of the Middle East’, has recently cemented this title with the opening of the first Gay Community Centre in Tel Aviv.

This significant step forward has even been embraced by a religious icon of the conservative Israeli community.

Rabbi David Lazar, was quoted as saying: “Every person, whoever he may be, was created in the image of God, and therefore [the gay community centre] is not just a house for the community, but a house of God.”

The mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai, furthered this notion of cultural acceptance in his wish that the barriers between homosexuals and heterosexuals would be broken within the next few years, and that the centre would hopefully evolve into one that benefits all members of the community, gay or straight.

The community centre provides services for young and old, holding preparatory programs for young gays entering the military, as well as ballet classes and activities geared towards the elderly population.

Other activities include the opening of a childcare program in the same building to promote a sense of openness within the general community, as well as the hosting of cultural events, performances and exhibitions of works by gay and lesbian artists.

This move towards tolerance is in contrast with recent petitions put forward by several Israeli religious politicians to the legislature to ban the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade.

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