Gay shooting inflames debate in Israel

Gay shooting inflames debate in Israel

The shooting at the gay youth club Bar-Noar in Tel Aviv, which resulted in the tragic death of 26-year-old Nir Katz and 16-year-old Liz Tarboushi, and the injury of 13 others, is sending political shockwaves across Israel. “This is our Stonewall,” said activists in Israel’s gay community this weekend, referring to the defining moment for the gay community in the US, back in 1969.

While everybody involved in gay events always anticipates violence in the religious and conservative Jerusalem – and particularly in the Jerusalem gay pride parade which has become a centre of controversy in recent years – the gay community sees Tel Aviv as its safe haven. No matter how segregated, old fashioned, grumpy and troubled the rest of Israel gets, Tel Aviv keeps shining as a liberated autonomous jewel, the iconic big city into which anybody can integrate, or at least be tolerated. Its proud gay community, which has turned Tel Aviv into a tourist attraction for many Europeans, is also part of what makes some Israelis hate the “bubble”, as the city is often referred to.

Nobody knows yet the identity of the masked character, dressed in black, who ventured into the bubble and shot the young people at the gay youth club on Saturday night. But as one of the commentators on the subject noted, a hate crime is defined by its victims, not its perpetrators. This much was understood by everybody. Even the community’s most bitter enemies, the orthodox Shas party, ultra-orthodox MK Yaakov Litzman of Yahadut Hatora (United Torah Judaism) party and others were quick to condemn the murder in no uncertain terms. “The Tel Aviv branch of Shas is shocked and pained and it condemns the murderous crime against the gay community,” said Shahar Bakshi, a spokesperson for Shas. Litzman said he strongly condemned the killing and that the murderer should be caught and prosecuted “like any other murderer”. The prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu; the president, Shimon Peres; the leader of the Labour party, Ehud Barak; and the leader of the opposition, Tzipi Livni, all voiced their condemnations and condolences, and spoke of the importance of equality, freedom and tolerance.

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