November 18, 2015 at 2:41 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Israeli transgender rights advocate takes own life

Mary Peleg, gay news, Washington Blade

May Peleg, a prominent transgender rights advocate in Israel who once chaired Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, a local LGBT advocacy organization, took her life on Nov. 14, 2015. (Photo by Ofrit Assaf)

A well-known transgender rights advocate in Israel has taken her own life.

Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, a local LGBT advocacy group, said in a press release that May Peleg took her own life on Nov. 14 after a period of “severe illness and struggle with authorities.”

She was 31.

Peleg, who chaired Jerusalem Open House until 2013, founded Transmeeting, the city’s first trans advocacy group. She also owned an LGBT bar in Jerusalem.

Peleg was born into an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family.

Jerusalem Open House in its press release said that Peleg during her childhood suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse that included two rapes.

Peleg in her 20s married and had two children.

She began suffering from “severe” fibromyalgia after contracting meningitis.

“Since then, May’s life was scored by countless suicide attempts, an acrimonious divorce, both voluntary and involuntary hospitalizations, an additional rape and long stretches of time living on the street,” wrote Jerusalem Open House.

The group said that Peleg eventually lost her disability stipend and custody of her children.

Jerusalem Open House said that Peleg prior to her death had “made arrangements” to be cremated.

“There are reasonable grounds for concern that if my body reaches my biological mother’ hands she will subject me to a religious burial, with Judaism not recognizing me as a woman, even though I’ve undergone sex change surgery,” Peleg told Jerusalem District Court, according to Jerusalem Open House. “This constitutes a lack of respect and an erasure of my identity.”

The Jerusalem Open House press release notes that Peleg’s mother has challenged the advocate’s final wishes.

“I’m from an Orthodox family and my son’s burial is very important to me,” Peleg’s mother told Jerusalem District Court, according to Jerusalem Open House. “I ask that his body not be cremated or transferred to any agency wishing to do so. I ask to be given the body for burial according to Jewish law.”

Peleg took her own life less than five months after Yishai Schlissel, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man, allegedly stabbed Shira Banki, a teenage girl, to death with a butcher’s knife and injured five others during an attack on a Jerusalem Pride march.

The Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office in August indicted Schlissel on charges of premeditated murder and attempted murder.

Schlissel had previously served a 10-year prison sentence in connection with the stabbing of three people during a 2005 Pride march in Jerusalem. Authorities released him less than a month before the July 30 attack.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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