A gunman dressed all in black opened fire on a room full of teens in a LGBTQ center, killing two and wounding fifteen. The incident is being taken very seriously and security around other LGBTQ centers has been stepped up.
“This is a most severe incident. The police are investing major resources and means to capture this murderer and his accomplices,” Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. David Cohen said, speaking from the murder scene.
“These were teenagers,” Yaniv Weisman, chairman of the Israeli Gay Youth organization, told The Jerusalem Post.
With tears in his eyes, Weisman added, “they came to this center from across the country to talk to one another and receive help. This was supposed to be a safe place for them. Someone knew what they were doing when they came here. This is not a pub or a club.”
“Today, someone sent a message that gays in Tel Aviv and Israel are not safe,” Weisman said.
Within hours of the attack, hundreds of Tel Aviv’s LGBTQ community gathered to protest the killings. “Love is allowed, killing is forbidden,” read one protest sign. Tel Aviv is one of the most progressive and cosmopolitan cities in Israel. Their gay community is very active and visible. But homophobia is still just as active and visible. Some have speculated that the attitudes of Israeli politicians have allowed such homophobia to go unchecked and uncountered.
“I warned in a column last year that Israel is a place which, one the one hand has liberal laws, but on the other does not attempt to counter homophobia,” Danny Zak, a gay activist and journalist, told the Post during the demonstration. “A murder was waiting to happen,” Zak added.
“The Shas party has the blood of two innocent kids on their hands,” he said. “Shas has blamed gays for earthquakes and diseases. This is incitement, but no one is put on trial for it,” he said.
The Shas faction released a statement following the shooting in which it called for the attacker “to be found and tried. Murder is of course against the Torah’s path and every attack is a contravention of the religion of Israel.”
Meretz MK Nitzan Horovitz, who is gay, arrived at the scene of the shooting. “There has been non-stop incitement,” he told the Post. “I very much hope this is not the result of comments made by public figures and Knesset members. They need to understand that some people will take action,” Horovitz added.
Still, many Tel Aviv gays have declared that they will not be intimidated by such a terrible act.
Lior Kay, a gay activist who took part in the demonstration, said, “I just want say one thing. We will not be intimidated. We will not be frightened by this act of terrorism.”
Despite a politically active and very conservative Orthodox Jewish population, Israel has granted many rights to gays that the United States have not. Military service is not limited to heterosexuals – and in a small and perpetually threatened nation where 2 year service is compulsory for all citizens, this should not come as a surprise. People may also perform municipal services in leau of combat duty, and , The Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgenders in Israel qualifies as such. However, many gays choose to enlist in active duty forces. Same sex marriages are not performed by the Israeli government but same sex marriages performed elsewhere are recognized as legal. There is no such thing as civil marriage in Israel, however, and any marriages not approved by strict religious guidelines – such as mixed-faith marriage or simply marriages that do not want any religious affiliation – must take place outside the country.
One must keep in mind that a nation that grants equality to the gay community is not immune to homophobia – and also that even in a nation that has homophobia, equality can be achieved.