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Can an LGBTQ health clinic prosper in religious Jerusalem?

TJI Pick
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Published: 23 June 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

A new full-service LGBTQ medical clinic in Jerusalem serves both Jewish and Arab communities but fears ultra-Orthodox pushback.

Yoel (not his real name) has a lot to gain from specialised LGBTQ medical care. He is sexually active with other men, but doesn’t always use condoms and is tested for sexually transmitted infections irregularly. He has heard of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – a drug that prevents the spread of HIV – but doesn’t have a prescription for it and doesn’t know how to get it. His family doctor is unaware that Yoel has male sex partners, so he hasn’t been vaccinated against HPV, mpox, or Hepatitis A and B.

There’s a new clinic in central Jerusalem that can help Yoel quickly close these health gaps. But he’d never heard of the clinic prior to speaking with Haaretz, despite it only being a 10-minute walk from where he lives and open since last October. Yoel, 30, comes from a highly religious, insular Hasidic family. His first language is Yiddish, and he has limited experience with Hebrew media and social networks. He deeply fears the consequences of being outed, and he’s on the fence about seeking out the medical care he needs.

Clalit, by far the largest of Israel’s four health maintenance organisations, opened the country’s first LGBTQ medical clinic in secular Tel Aviv in 2009. It has since opened other such clinics in Herzliya and Haifa. But religious opposition to LGBTQ visibility makes running the Jerusalem clinic a particularly challenging endeavor, according to Clalit’s director of LGBTQ health services, Dr. Roy Zucker.

“I don’t think I need to explain the complexity of opening something like this in Jerusalem,” says Zucker. “It really took courage on Clalit’s side to acknowledge that there’s a community here that has medical and health needs, and we need to do something about that.”

The push to establish the new clinic – called Lev Ha’ir (“Heart of the City”) – came from Zucker and two other doctors who had long been working in Jerusalem: Dr. Yael Ronen and Dr. Ella Kitroser. It is open once a week, for a three-hour window.

Can an LGBTQ Health Clinic Prosper in Religious Jerusalem? Its Doctors and Patients Hope So (Haaretz)

What gender affirming top surgery was actually like (Speedy Shatari, ABC)

Homosexuality bigger threat to Israel than Hamas: ultra-orthodox Israeli lawmaker (Haaretz)
MK Yitzhak Pindrus, a dependable source of outlandish, controversial statements, added to his collection when he compared the threat of homosexuality to Israel's greatest national security threats.

Photo: A Jewish member of the LGBTQ community at the Jerusalem Pride Parade earlier this month, with an ultra-Orthodox man in the background (Olivier Fitoussi)

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