The Israel Defense Forces has promoted its top lawyer, Sharon Afek, to major general on Thursday, making him the country’s first openly gay person to hold that rank.
‘The rank promotion expresses the great responsibility of the military advocate general to act, shoulder to shoulder with commanders, in order to ensure that the IDF is able to fulfill its goal and win, without giving up on the rule of law,’ Afek said during the ceremony.
‘Even in the times of the most complicated and difficult fighting, the IDF was strict, is strict and will be strict in remaining within the bounds of law and justice’, he added.
‘This dedication of the IDF to law and justice is a source of strength and not weakness. It allows us to operate as a people’s army in a democratic state and to preserve the trust of the public,’ he said.
The military advocate general received his promotion during a small event at the IDF’s Tel Aviv headquarters, known as the Kirya, The Times of Israel reported.
Afek’s rank insignia were placed upon his shoulders by his father and by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.
The decision to promote Afek to the rank of major general was made earlier this year. The military determined it was more fitting for the position of military advocate general.
Afek served in the army in law-related positions for 25 years before being appointed military advocate general in October 2015.
In an interview with the Israeli Bar Association last year, Afek said it was an important step in showing members of the LGBTI community that the army would accept them.
Gay role models needed amid fragmented Israeli LGBTI policy
‘It’s important for me to act as a role model,’ he said. ‘Even today, in the year 2017, we still encounter manifestations of ignorance and hatred of others. It’s important to me that young men and women know that there are no glass ceilings in the IDF that limit them.’
Although Afek’s promotion will be welcomed by LGBTI campaigners, Israel still needs to connect the dots on its national policy towards its gay citizens.
Afek’s appointment comes in the same week the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, denied same-sex couples surrogacy rights, while amending a bill to allow single women the right to have children via a surrogate.