Ariel Sharon, whose half century as a military and political leader in Israel was marked with victories and controversies, died Saturday after eight years in a coma. Sharon was 85.
Sharon is listed as the first ever Israeli Prime Minister to have met representatives of the LGBT community, not as a part of election propaganda, but to really understand the needs of the community. The historical meeting happened in February 2002, when 10 Aguda activists met the prime minister in his office and explained to him their struggle for equal rights, asking him to help in recognizing gay and lesbian couple and improve healthcare for the community.
Sharon met with the community despite the harsh rejection of the right wing religious parties in the Knesset, and was criticized after the meeting for doing so. Sharon said during the meeting that the LGBT community should ‘live their life as they want to’, but said that he has “no intention at that moment of coming out with a public statement or marching in gay prides” since he had just started to study the subject. The representatives of the Aguda, including Adir Steiner, Menachem Seizaf, Shabi Gettanio and others left the meeting a bit disappointed but optimistic, since it looked as if a door was opened for the first time to a discussion with a Prime Minister.
Unfortunately, the discussion with Sharon didn’t continue. In 2006 the Prime Minister suffered a stroke which left him in a coma for eight years. He died on Saturday. However, during the rest of his time as Prime Minister of Israel a few changes were made, including capital gains tax on real estate exemption for same sex couples, a correction to the rights of a sick person that prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation and a change in the penal code law that doubles the punishment for LGBT hate crimes in Israel.