A former member of Liverpool Bnei Akiva is set to become the first ever gay spouse of an Israeli ambassador.
UK-born Mikie Goldstein, 44, will accompany his partner Yitzhak (Izzy) Yanouka to Angola when he takes up his appointment as the next Israeli ambassador in Luanda. Earlier this week the appointments committee of Israel’s Foreign Ministry approved Mr Yanouka’s candidacy, and the decision will be rubber-stamped by the cabinet in the next few weeks.
A Foreign Ministry source in Jerusalem said that it was unthinkable that Mr Yanouka’s appointment would not be ratified by the cabinet because of personal matters. The appointment has already been approved by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
There are reportedly four currently serving Israeli ambassadors who are gay but none of them are officially in residence with spouses.
Following victories in Israeli courts by human rights organisations, he is entitled to the full legal and economic rights due to the spouses of foreign ministry staff.
Mr Goldstein said: “This is not the first time that I will be going on assignment abroad with Izzy, and I am entitled to full-time employment in the Israeli embassy. In Brazil I served as the hasbarah officer and most recently in Dublin I was the cultural attache from 2004-2006.”
Mr Goldstein was born and raised in Liverpool, studied at Manchester Jewish Grammar School and after receiving a BA in Middle East Studies from Manchester University, immigrated to Israel in 1989. He met Mr Yanouka in 1994, and they were married in Jerusalem the following year by former Finchley Reform Synagogue rabbi Roderick Young.
Mr Goldstein said: “That marriage does not have civil status, but under Israeli law if a couple have lived together for more than two years then they are recognised as common law spouses.”
Mr Goldstein is resource development director of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement and chairman of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, the country’s largest gay community. However, in an era when many diplomats’ spouses are reluctant to travel abroad for fear of hurting their own careers, Mr Goldstein is happy to accompany his partner to Angola.
“I feel I am pushing out new boundaries for the gay community, and I will have a chance to do other things. I will also be able to continue my fundraising activities for the Masorti movement and Jerusalem Open House.
“Israel’s Foreign Ministry has been a world leader in its attitudes to gay rights. The UK Foreign Ministry has also been very progressive although the US State Department has only moved forward since the appointment of Hillary Clinton. Generally the world’s diplomatic community has many openly gay people and attending parties on the international circuit is no problem. I have always been fully accepted as Izzy’s spouse. It probably bothers some of the conservative Muslim countries but then they don’t speak to Israelis anyway.”
Mr Goldstein said that he is especially looking forward to accompanying his spouse when he presents his credentials to the Angolan president next summer. Another highlight will be greeting their guests at the ambassador’s home for the traditional Independence Day party.