Hoshen – Education & change

The Advocacy Arm of the LGBT Movement in Israel

Hoshen (a Hebrew acronym for ‘Education and Change’) is a nationwide, nonprofit organization that works across Israel to combat stereotypes regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. Growing since 2004, Hoshen focuses on sensitivity training and raising awareness on LGBT issues, conducting more than 1,800 events a year, and working mostly in schools, where its activities reach around 50,000 students annually.

Hoshen is a volunteer-driven organization with over 250 volunteers, the majority of which take part in the organization's activities by sharing their personal stories to audiences of students and professionals from communities across Israel. Prompted by a belief that tolerance for LGBT Israelis should not be limited to the ‘enlightened’ Tel Aviv metropolitan area, Hoshen has placed growing emphasis in recent years on reaching out to communities and volunteers from across Israel’s periphery. Roughly half of its activities and events now take place in these areas  at over 300 different institutions.

Work with Youth and Students

Today, LGBT-phobia is often a prominent presence in and around the classroom. Though attitudes have been changing for some time now– especially in the center of the country — there are large sectors and regions of Israel where incidents of prejudice and hostility are still a part of daily life for LGBT Israelis. For young people still in the process of discovering who they are, this type of environment can be very difficult to handle. Hoshen holds hundreds of workshops for high school students across Israel each year, in which LGBT facilitators share the personal stories of their struggle for acceptance with a classroom. Beyond generating a wider understanding of the types of hardships faced by LGBT-Israelis, these activities are also designed to reach out to LGBT teens, many of them still in the closet, and yearning for positive LGBT role-models, guidance, information or support.

Reforming the Israeli Education System from Within

Educating for tolerance is not something that can come solely from a one-off event; it has to be integrated into the education system as a whole. According to IGY's (the Israeli gay youth organization) school climate survey, conducted in 2016, 48% of LGBT pupils testify that teachers refrain from taking a stand in case of LGBT-phobia incidents. Teachers need resources and knowledge that can improve the way they discuss LGBT-related issues in the classroom setting, and they need tools to deal with incidents of hostility and violence in their schools when they arise. Together with the Ministry of Education, Hoshen has piloted a variety of curricula and teacher-training programs that are now in effect across the country. In addition to that, the organization works on a school-by-school basis with teams of teachers of all age groups (K-12), to provide them with tools and guidance that will help them discuss complex issues, support LGBT students, and ensure that their classrooms are safe spaces. Hoshen is officially recognized by the Educational Psychological Authority of the Ministry of Education (SHEFI), the first organization to work with the Ministry in a formal capacity, and its activity within the system of education remains the most extensive.

Making Service Providers and Public Bodies aware of LGBT Issues

In parallel, Hoshen works to sensitize the wide range of service-providers whose work brings them into contact with LGBT Israelis. Every year, the organization conducts sensitivity training workshops with a wide array of professionals, including school psychologists, university personnel, the police, Israeli Defence Force, units and officer corps, medical professionals, social workers and guidance counselors and many more. A recent partnership with the Israel Border Police, for instance, resulted in a year-long series of workshops designed to ensure that the personnel in this corps — who are responsible for securing pride parades around the country — are part of the fight against prejudice, rather than a source of it (as has been the case in the past). Moreover, in the past two years, Hoshen collaborates with the Ministry of Health who funded a joint project enabling Hoshen to conduct workshops for health workers regarding trans* peoples' health. In addition, Hoshen works in the private sector to promote diversity in the workplace, and has a variety of activities employers. The organization partners regularly with dozens of other institutions across the country, from university departments to medical facilities, the Israeli Police and so on.

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[1] ‘Hoshen’ is also a word, and in the Bible refers to the breastplate worn by the High Priest of Israel (Ex. 29), whose 12 stones represented each of the 12 tribes. As our logo, we feel it is a good representation of the diversity of Israel still today.