The mother of Nir Katz, 26, a gay youth counselor murdered last August by a masked gunman, will kick off the Tel Aviv Pride Parade on Friday by highlighting homophobia in Israeli society and calling on parents of homosexuals, lesbians, transgender and bisexuals to stand by their children.

“There are all different types of people in society and only if we are willing to talk about differences and show respect for people who are different will we find greater understanding and acceptance,”Ayala Katz, chairwoman of Tehila, a non-profit organization that provides support for parents of homosexual, lesbian, transgender and bisexual children, told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.

“Despite the personal pain I still feel, I am always optimistic that the world can become a better place,” she said, adding that at the end of the day homophobia is only hurting ourselves.

Katz, whose first husband, Rami (Nir’s father) was killed in the 1990 Tze’elim tragedy in which five IDF soldiers died during a training exercise, explained that until Nir’s murder she had not been so involved in her son’s life.

“I was always supportive of him at home and encouraged his boyfriend and friends to come over,” she said. “But he tried to encourage me to get involved in the gay community by coming to pride parades and other events. It was only after his murder that I realized how important it is for parents to become involved.”

Katz added: “There is a whole world surrounding the community and we, as parents, also need to do something to support them.”

Not longer after Nir was murdered in the shooting on August 1, which left 10 other people injured and another young woman, Liz Trubeshi, dead, his mother became involved in Tehila and last December took over as the organization’s chairwoman.

“No one decides to become gay it is simply their reality,” said Katz. “But when people do not accept them, either inside the family or outside, then many obstacles are created for them.”

As well as offering support for parents of gay children, Katz said that Tehila offers services to youngsters too scared to be open about their sexual orientation.

One of the organization’s programs involves parents of gay children reaching out to other youths in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem who have no one else to talk to and need support to confront their own families, she said.

Friday’s gay pride parade in Tel Aviv is not the first that Katz is attending since her son’s murder.

“I was recently in Beersheva at their first pride parade,” she described. “I saw so many young people, their eyes finally shining at the prospect that they could be free in their own city.”

Katz added: “I asked many people in the crowd why there are so many bad feelings against the gay community and most of them said that it stemmed from fear of the unknown. This is a subject that is not spoken about and that is why people get nervous.

Only if we have dialogue will we be able to solve this problem,” she said.

Although it has been more than 10 months since Nir Katz and Liz Trubeshi were murdered, police have yet to make any arrests in the case.

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