Headlined "Home and Exile," the March 28 meeting is meant to spark discussion of homosexuality among Israel's 1 million Arab citizens, said Roula Deeb, a prominent Arab feminist and one of the scheduled speakers.
The conference is being organized by Aswat, an Arab lesbian group based in Haifa, a coastal city home to both Jews and Arabs.
Around 100 to 150 people are expected to show up, Deeb said. With homosexuality a taboo topic in much of the Arab world, the meeting is important simply because it is taking place.
Israel is generally tolerant of homosexuality, and the country's secular metropolis, Tel Aviv, is home to a thriving gay community. But Israel's Arabs, who make up 20 percent of the population, live mostly in separate communities and homosexuality is still considered out of bounds.
Any guesses why the meeting is happening in Israel?
I don't mean to be too triumphant. There is plenty of anti-gay sentiment in Israel and in the Jewish community (the article notes opposition coming from leaders of Jerusalem's ultra-orthodox community). And again, the most important thing is that the meeting is happening, and one hopes that it is fruitful and productive. But let's remember--in all the Middle East, Israel is probably the only country this meeting could happen publicly without the participants being beaten and/or stoned.