tel aviv gay shooting 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Leaders and members of Tel Aviv's gay community are making a concerted effort to refrain from blaming haredi elements - specifically the Shas Party - for Saturday night's shooting spree at a support center for gay youths that claimed two lives, but widespread anger at Shas's record of anti-gay statements was expressed nonetheless.
The two fatalities were named Sunday as 26-year-old counselor Nir Katz, from Givatayim, and Liz Trubeshi, 17, from Holon.
Their bodies were found in the center by paramedics, while the wounded were rushed to the city's Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital). Two victims were in critical condition, while three were moderately hurt, Magen David Adom paramedics said. Several others were lightly wounded.
Among the scenarios being investigated by police is the possibility that the masked gunman was himself gay, and that he opened fire because he was motivated by self-hatred or rage stemming from a failed love affair.
Hundreds of police on foot and in mopeds and patrol cars searched Tel Aviv overnight for the killer, but with no success. A media ban was placed Sunday on details of the investigation.
Tensions between the gay community and Shas have risen since the attack. During a spontaneous demonstration held on Saturday night, hours after the shooting, Danny Zak, a gay activist and journalist, told The Jerusalem Post, "The Shas Party has the blood of two innocent kids on their hands. Shas has blamed gays for earthquakes and diseases. This is incitement, but no one is put on trial for it."
By Sunday evening, however, activists were more restrained.
"We must be open to all options, including the possibility that this is linked to self-hatred," Yaniv Weisman, chairman of the Israeli Gay Youth Association, told the Post.
A lesbian activist who councils youths struggling to find their sexual identity echoed Weisman's comments, telling the Post, "To blame it all on Shas and to generalize against religious people would mean doing to others what was done to us. I am against all forms of incitement."
Referring to Shas, Weisman said, "It's too easy to accuse someone who has, for many years, been inciting to hatred while in the government. If this act does turn out to be religiously motivated, the inciters will be made to answer for it."
Weisman, who spent the afternoon visiting the wounded, helped organize a rally on Sunday afternoon to condemn the murders, held on Tel Aviv's Sderot Rothschild, close to the site of Saturday night's attack.
Addressing a crowd of several hundred people waving rainbow flags, Weisman drew applause when he said, "The most important thing we can do... is to get out of the closet. Being in the closet weakens us. The closet is a disaster."
The rally was also addressed by Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni and a host of MKs and public figures. Similar rallies were held in Beersheba and Jerusalem.
"I came here today to identify not only with the injured and the families of the deceased, but with you, the members of the gay and lesbian community who are alive," Livni said.
"It's true that we do not know the identity and the motive of the killer. But we know this was an act of hatred, because love does not kill," she said.
"I hope this day will give power to kids to tell their parents, 'I'm gay, or lesbian,' and power to parents to accept their kids as they are and love them for who they are," Livni said.
MK Nitzan Horowitz, the country's only openly gay lawmaker, said during his speech, "Anyone who kills members of a group for being members of a group is carrying out a hate crime...
"I know there are voices saying maybe his was an inside thing, maybe this was carried out by someone undergoing a crisis. I ask you, what is in the public atmosphere that can precipitate such a crisis, and lead someone to commit such a crime? What causes a man to take a gun and spray bullets at people without knowing them, just because he knows he's at a gay center, and to kill as many people as possible?"
Horowitz took a swipe at the religious establishment, speaking of "rabbis who continue to incite and Knesset members who continue to revile an entire group. What happened today is a result of indictment against a proud community."
A self-critical note was sounded by leading gay activist Gal Orchovsky, who said, "It pains me that so far, we have been unable to rally around causes and demonstrate for other minorities... that we cannot be dragged out of Tel Aviv and out of our parties."
MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima) told the crowd, "Your war is a war between light and darkness. I came here from Ethiopia looking for a free country... We don't want to be like Iran here. That's not us."
MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) bemoaned "the fact that there are victims in hospital who are not being visited by their family. That says it all.
"The gunman didn't fire alone... The incitement of many was behind him," she said.
Hundreds of people remained after the rally, trying to come to terms with Saturday night's events.
"We came to this center, so this has hit us hard," said Avihu Shaltner, a rally participant. "It looks like a horror film."
Yael Ross, a lesbian woman who was also at the rally, criticized speculation that the shooter may have been motivated by factors other than homophobia, saying, "When Arab terrorists blow themselves up, I don't hear anyone saying, 'Maybe this was a crime of passion.'"