A group of LGBTQ+ youth were violently attacked near the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem on Friday, while they were on their way to a conference on transgender issues being held in Tel Aviv.
In a post on Facebook, Tsion Eliash stated that they were walking with their friend towards the bus stations in front of International Convention Center in Jerusalem on Friday to wait for a shuttle to the convention in Tel Aviv, when a group of teenagers began shouting at them "This isn't Tel Aviv!" and "Go to Gaza, be lesbian there!"
While Eliash and their friend, Noam, tried to ignore the group, one of the teenagers bumped into them violently from behind, causing them to spill the coffee they were holding on themselves, with Eliash writing that the teenagers began laughing and seemed "pleased with themselves."
"I told him 'what the hell,' [and] we started walking faster," wrote Eliash on Facebook. "They all rushed after us. One of them cupped Noam in the groin. Another began to moan and hold his genitals. Noam shouted at them not to touch him. They threw small stones at us and started pushing and touching us randomly, just to show that they could."
At this point, Eliash and Noam arrived at the bus station and saw three of their friends and hoped that the teenagers would leave them alone if they grouped together, but the teenagers continued attacking them.
"They crowded around the five of us, cursing, shouting insults, pushing," wrote Eliash, adding that they threatened to call the police, but the teenagers just responded by mocking them and making sexual statements. After one member of the group of LGBTQ+ youth told the teenagers to go away, the teenagers pushed them to the floor.
Eliash described how bystanders in the area watched and did nothing as the teenagers attacked them. "All this time there were people around us, some watching, but only at that moment did anyone intervene. Just as they flung him to the sidewalk, a few soldiers passed by who immediately responded, hey hey, what are you doing to him, and just swept them away from there," they wrote.
"We stayed there scared, trying to pick ourselves up. I was at a lecture and workshop at the conference and have no idea what was being said, we were disconnected all day," wrote Eliash. "Physically we are all fine, emotionally we are working on it."
The Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance has filed a complaint with Israel Police about the incident and Eliash has asked anyone who witnessed the attack to contact them.
The Open House and Aguda - The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel - stressed that such violence and LGBTQ-phobia could not be accepted, saying "this severe attack joins other cases of LGBT-phobia in Jerusalem in recent months, while the silence and inaction of the Jerusalem Municipality is particularly jarring."
"We expect the Jerusalem Municipality and Israel Police to act resolutely and exhaust full justice with the attackers. It is inconceivable that members of the LGBTQ+ community not feel safe in the capital of the State of Israel. We ask anyone who has experienced a LGBTQ-phobic case to contact the Aguda's reporting center and not deal with it alone," said the two LGBTQ+ organizations.
The attack came just before the beginning of Transgender Awareness Week, which is marked from November 13 to November 20. The two-day conference in Tel Aviv which took place over the weekend included panels, speeches and presentations about a number of topics concerning the trans community in Israel, including employment, welfare and healthcare resources and education.
A first-of-its-kind survey carried out by the Geocartography Company and released by the Aguda's Israeli Institute for Gender and LGBTQ Studies and Project Gila for Transgender Empowerment recently found that 80% of Israelis said that it would be difficult or even impossible for them to accept knowing their child is transgender.
On the other hand, 67% of Israelis said they would have no issue working with a transgender colleague.
About half of Israelis stated that they believe that there are only two genders which are set by biology. One out of every six Israelis knows a transgender person, with female Israelis tending to know more transgender people personally than men.
Meretz MK Gaby Lasky and Labor MK Naama Lazimi are set to hold a special discussion at the Knesset on Tuesday at 10 a.m. which will evaluate the needs and existing resources for the transgender community. Representatives of various government offices and LGBTQ+ organizations, as well as other relevant officials, have been invited to the discussion.
"The data we present to the public today are not encouraging at all," said Project Gila head Bar Awasker. "We demand that the government and relevant ministers identify and monitor gaps in government systems that harm people on the trans spectrum. The challenges facing the trans community are unacceptable in 2021."
"These data are supposed to worry the decision-makers in the State of Israel who must act now," said Ran Shalhavi, director-general of the Aguda. "It is time to stop the exclusion, discrimination and hatred that people on the trans spectrum face even today."
"We call for a full and thorough implementation of the conclusions of the inter-ministerial team for the trans community: from training doctors and medical staff for the needs of the community and proper treatment including a national program to encourage the largest employers in the economy to integrate members of the community in positions appropriate to their qualifications," added Shalhavi.