An American LGBTQ+ activist who fled Israel during Hamas attacks says she never imagined feeling safer in Dubai, where being gay is a crime

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10/09/2023

As an American LGBTQ+ activist, Rachael Fried never thought she would feel a sense of relief upon landing in Dubai, where homosexuality is a crime. But when Hamas launched large-scale surprise attacks on Israel on Saturday, it became the best option. Fried, who works as the executive director of the nonprofit Jewish Queer Youth, flew to Israel with her wife to visit family and friends for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which began on September 29. The couple took an Emirates flight from New York to Israel with a stopover in Dubai, where same-sex sexual acts can carry a prison sentence of up to 14 years, according to Human Dignity Trust. LGBTQ+ issues in Israel are more nuanced. LGBTQ+ identities are not criminalized, and Tel Aviv is known as the “gay capital of the Middle East” with a pride parade that attracts hundreds of thousands of attendees ever year. At the same time, same-sex marriage is not legal, though Israel retroactively recognizes same-sex marriages performed outside of the country, and homophobic attitudes are prevalent among more traditional communities, according to Keshet UK.

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