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Israel has promoted its first ever gay major general

Josh Jackman July 16, 2018

Afek receives his insignias from his father (L) and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (idfspokesperson/twitter)

One of the most senior members of Israel’s military has become the first openly gay person to hold its second-highest rank.

Sharon Afek, the top lawyer in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), was made a major general on July 12, just over a year since he came out as gay in an unprecedented move.

At a ceremony in Tel Aviv, the new insignias were attached to Afek’s shoulders by his father and Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot – the only person in the IDF who now outranks him.

Sharon Afek
Afek came out as gay last year (Wikimedia Commons)

Afek told the crowd that his promotion “expresses the great responsibility of the military advocate general to act, shoulder to shoulder with commanders, in order to ensure that the IDF is able to fulfil its goal and win, without giving up on the rule of law.”

“Even in the times of the most complicated and difficult fighting, the IDF was strict, is strict and will be strict in remaining within the bounds of law and justice.

“This dedication of the IDF to law and justice is a source of strength and not weakness. It allows us to operate as a people’s army in a democratic state and to preserve the trust of the public,” he added.

Revellers celebrate along a sea side avenue in Tel Aviv during the Israeli city's annual Gay Pride parade on June 8, 2018. - Tens of thousands of people gathered along the beach in the Israeli commercial capital Tel Aviv for the largest Gay Pride event in the Middle East. (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)        (Photo credit should read GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Attendees enjoy the 2018 Tel Aviv Pride parade (GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP/Getty)

The decision to promote Afek was made earlier this year, after the IDF concluded that it was a more appropriate rank for the military advocate general.

Afek, who has been in his position since 2015, will hold the role for five years, with the option of a sixth.

When he came out last year, the 47-year-old said he used to be scared of revealing his sexuality, but wanted to do so because it was “important for me to be a role model.

“When I was a young officer, times were different,” he explained.

IDF's Mostly Female Combat Unit Attend Training Day in Azuz
Israel has mandatory conscription (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty)

“I was afraid that this would work against me and that I would truly hit a glass ceiling, but I never encountered discrimination, either positive or negative, because of this since beginning my service in the IDF.

“To my delight, this didn’t cause any special interest, and I never felt my sexual orientation was a factor in any judgments about me, which is a good thing.”

He hoped his example would show LGBT teenagers preparing to join the IDF – which has a policy of mandatory conscription – that they can belong in the military.

“Even today, in 2017, we encounter expressions of ignorance and hatred of the other,” said Afek.

“It’s important for me that these young men and women know there’s no glass ceiling limiting them in the IDF. Their success depends on them, and them alone.

“It’s possible for every person to reach the very top of the pyramid in his field, according to his abilities,” he continued.

Revellers celebrate along a sea side avenue in Tel Aviv during the Israeli city's annual Gay Pride parade on June 8, 2018. - Tens of thousands of people gathered along the beach in the Israeli commercial capital Tel Aviv for the largest Gay Pride event in the Middle East. (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)        (Photo credit should read GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Afek said that “the IDF is an army of the people” (GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP/Getty)

“The IDF is an army of the people, embracing anyone who wishes to contribute and advance in it, and I will be happy if many men and women follow in my footsteps.”

Earlier this month, it was revealed that a new bill in Israel would allow single women access to surrogacy, but that gay couples would continue to be excluded .

Surrogacy laws in Israel are extremely strict, and up until now the only people allowed access to surrogacy in the country were infertile married heterosexual couples.

It is currently illegal for gay couples to use a surrogate mother in Israel, however they can use a surrogate abroad if they wish.

(Photo: Creative Commons)

The bill passed through Israel’s Labour, Welfare and Health Committee on Monday by an 8-4 vote in favour of the new legislation, despite pleas from LGBT+ politicians to cater for their needs.

It will now pass to Israel’s assembly, the Knesset, where it will likely be voted into law.

More: Gay, idf, Israel, Israel, major general, Middle East, Middle East, military, sharon afek, World

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