Center to combat LBGT abuse opens in TA
Center opens on 3 year anniversary of murder of 2 at gay youth center; operates helpline to field abuse complaints.
Mourners gather around the grave of Nir Katz Photo: Baz Ratner / Reuters
Three years to the day that a gunman killed two people and wounded 15 at a Tel
Aviv center for gay youth, a center to fight abuse against the LGBT community
began operating on Wednesday evening in the city.
Named after Nir Katz,
the 26- year-old youth counselor who was murdered in the shooting at the Bar
Noar center along with 16-year-old Liz Trubeshi, the new center will operate a
helpline to field complaints of homophobic abuse, as part of an effort to
compile statistics on hate crimes against Israel’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and
Shai Doitsh, head of the Israeli National LGBT
Task Force, said on Wednesday that the center will allow them to compile
statistics on anti-LGBT violence to present to Israel Police by next
Doitsh said the incidents on which information will be compiled
will range from violent actions to verbal abuse such as a teacher who makes a
comment to an LGBT student in school, a nurse who will not allow same-sex
couples to be together in an emergency room and verbal abuse from
“Our goal is to gather all of this data together for the first
time ever, and in August 2013 we will reveal what the community faces in Israel
today,” Doitsh said. “Every governmental office in Israel, the army, the
Education Ministry, the police, they all say there isn’t a problem with
homophobia in Israel, and part of this is because we don’t have any statistics
When asked about whether the statistics could tarnish the image
of Israel as an enlightened country in terms of its treatment of the LGBT
community, Doitsh said, “What we present to the world is not a false picture; we
are one of the most advanced countries in the world in regard to treatment of
the community, in some ways even better than the USA. With this, it doesn’t mean
we have to accept the situation here.”
He said he believes that the
report the organization will submit in August 2013 will show that the situation
in Israel is less severe than in most places in the world.
doesn’t mean that we should hide the problems that we have here just like other
places; that young [LGBT] people are thrown out of their homes into the street,
or that students drop out of school because they aren’t accepted by
Doitsh said the center, which will be open from 7:30 p.m. to
10:30 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, will also provide counseling and legal
advice. He added that the center opened with an NIS 400,000 annual budget, and
has received no state funding.
He said that counselors will help those
who call in to deal with problems faced by members of the LGBT community around
the world, including “the difficult process of coming out of the closet, feeling
that there is something wrong with you, that you’re alone, living in sin, and
you ask yourself is this the life I’ll have? Will I be alone all my life?” He
said the community deals with dozens of suicides each year, not only among teens
but also of elderly Israelis, who in many cases suffer from isolation in old
He added that the situation in Israel has not been helped by
anti-gay statements made recently by lawmakers such as Anastasia Michaeli
(Yisrael Beytenu) and Uri Ariel (National Union), saying “words have power, and
no MK can know how their words will be taken.”
On Saturday evening, a
ceremony is scheduled for Meir Park next to the Tel Aviv LGBT center, to mark
the three-year anniversary of the shooting.
Speakers will include Judy
Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student who was
tortured and murdered in a remote area outside Laramie, Wyoming in October
Shepard’s murder was a watershed event that inspired the US Matthew
Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which President Barack
Obama signed into law in October 2009.
No suspects have been charged in
the Bar Noar shooting, though there have been reports of advancements in the
case, the police have refused to comment on them.
contributed to this report.