LGBT students outraged after allegation that religious-oriented university refused to permit a public event or distribution of brochures, and reportedly suggested a panel of psychologists and rabbi to ‘help’ participants; Bar-Ilan denies claims, saying it offered organizational help.

As Tel Aviv celebrates its LGBT community with Pride Month, the National Union of Israeli Students (NUIS) says Bar-Ilan University forbade marking the occasion on campus.

According to a report aired Wednesday on Israeli radio, the university also allegedly suggested to 90 members of the school’s LGBT chapter that they hold “a respectable event with the participation of different speakers, like psychologists and rabbis, who can offer help for participants”.

Tel Aviv Pride Parade in Meir Park, Tel Aviv (Archive Photo: Ido Erez)
Tel Aviv Pride Parade in Meir Park, Tel Aviv (Archive Photo: Ido Erez)

According to the LGBT society, Professor Uri Nir, who is the dean of students, was responsible for these statements.

The university’s administration denies the students’ contentions. “In complete contrast to the claim, the university did not suggest ‘rabbis and psychologists to help the participants”, but rather to help organize the event,” it said in a statement.

The LGBT chapter asked to hold a “happening” on June 22 in the campus’s main square. According to the NUIS, Professor Nir said in a Wednedsay meeting with the head of the LGBT chapter, Omer Mahluf, that it would not be possible to distribute brochures, celebrate, or raise awareness of LGBT rights.

The students say that Professor Nir made it clear in the meeting that Bar-Ilan University decided not to allow any public Pride event. They also say the university only approved an academic panel in a closed auditorium, whose speakers will first be approved by the university. Even then, according to the students, the university is unwilling to permit distribution of brochures.

“A public event is hugely important, because on campus there is a very large population of students who belong to the LGBT community, but are at different stages of the process of accepting their sexual identity and coming out, and therefore don’t come to the chapter’s regular meetings, and also won’t go to an isolated event held in a closed auditorium,” said Mahluf.

“I made it clear to the dean that the chapter is not a therapeutic group, and the goal of the event is not therapeutic or psychological. I added that I was leaving the meeting with a heavy heart and disappointed the behavior of the university, which castrated the event, and while it formally approved holding some kind of event, in practice it doomed it failure.

“We are not disconnected from reality,” Mahluf continued. “We didn’t come with a request to hold a provocative event. We are aware of the character of the institution where we study. All we wanted was to organize an event on campus with relevant organizations, to create representation, and to have a discussion.

“The dean’s statement about rabbis and psychologists is very hurtful. I tried to tell him that it’s not a therapeutic class. His statement makes me ashamed of the institution where I study.”

“Considering the university’s religious character,” said a Bar-Ilan University statement, “and in light of the fact that the event the students requested to hold is unrelated to its academic or collegiate activity, the administration announced that it would approve holding an event with an academic character in one of the campus auditoriums – a symposium or panel – that deals with topics relevant to the LGBT community.”

“We understand the sensitivity, we are not strangers here and we take the religious population into consideration,” said Itay, a student at Bar-Ilan. “I’ve studied here for two years and have lots of religious friends. They understand our complaint. They don’t necessarily agree with me, but they’re willing to listen. We feel that we’re being excluded, that they accept everyone else here but not us based on a claim that is not real, in my opinion.

“The university is basically saying, ‘we have no problem with you being gay, just don’t talk about it.”

As reported by Ynetnews