Welcome to Times Will Tell, the weekly podcast from The Times of Israel. This week, at the tail end of Pride month, we’re speaking with a leader of IGY — the Israel Gay Youth organization — Rom Ohayon, who heads up all post-high school programs.
Today, IGY is funded in part by the ministries of education, health, and social welfare, in addition to private donations. There are some 400 IGY volunteers who offer support and advocacy for over 4,000 gay youths a year throughout Israel. IGY works in conjunction with the IDF, the National Service programs, and is launching a new pre-military academy, Mechinat Rut, named after the late US Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg this fall.
But it was not always on the Israeli scene and was only created in 2002 by Yaniv Weizman and Gal Ohovsky, specifically for ages 12-23.
Its ongoing evolution and spread to all kinds of Israel’s diverse communities means the group is gradually filling a massive void for gay youth and helping them stay integrated within Israeli society.
After the tragic 2009 shooting at the Bar Noar gay youth club in Tel Aviv that left two dead, IGY strengthened its efforts to tie youth to their communities.
“After the initial shock, we realized that one of the key needs of our youth is to feel a connection to engagement in civil society and volunteering for others. As a result, we decided to strengthen our leadership programs and channel teens into volunteering,” according to the IGY website.
By 2010, IGY started its post-high school Year of Service group. Eventually, some participants began to conscript into the IDF’s Nahal Brigade, which was founded by David Ben-Gurion in 1948 and traditionally combines military service with serving in small communities.
Since 2018, several graduates of the service and army programs have settled in Afula and become IGY leaders. This is where we find 29-year-old Rom Ohayon today.
We speak about the post-high school programs, how to combat homophobic harassment and how gay youth are modeling change in the IDF.