Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Two Dead, 11 Injured at Israeli GLBT Community Center

Pavel Wolberg / EPA

Saturday night a masked gunman walked into a GLBT youth community center in Tel Aviv, Israel and opened fire, killing two people and injuring 11. The shooter fled the scene on foot.

The deceased were identified as a 26-year-old man who was a counselor at the center and a 17-year-old girl.

During a protest at the Center on Saturday night openly gay laywer Arnon Hirsch said "I fear that if the man who did this is not found, the consequences to the gay community might be far-reaching — they might live in fear. I have no intention of giving in to terror. I'm not going to hide anywhere."

The attack came amidst a culture and city that has a thriving, uninhibited gay culture. Gay soldiers serve openly in the military, and gay musicians and actors are among the country's most popular. Tel Aviv holds a festive annual gay parade, rainbow flags are often seen flying from apartment windows, and there is a city-funded community center for gays.

The attack drew condemnations from Tel Aviv's mayor, Cabinet ministers, the country's chief rabbis, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "We'll bring him to justice and exercise the full extent of the law against him," Netanyahu said of the killer, speaking at the Israeli Cabinet's weekly meeting.

Nitzan Horowitz, Israel's only openly gay lawmaker, called the attack a "hate crime." "This is the worst attack ever against the gay community in Israel," he said. "This act was a blind attack against innocent youths, and I expect the authorities to exercise all means in apprehending the shooter."

"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," said Tzipi Livni . 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."

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