As police mounted a massive manhunt for
the masked man who allegedly killed 2 gay youth in Tel Aviv, the gay
community rallied against Saturday's attack.
Initial reports suggested 3 teens were
left dead and 10 wounded when a masked, lone gunman stormed the Tel
Aviv Gay and Lesbian Association building and sprayed automatic fire
in a basement room as a support group for gay teenagers assembled.
The AP reported Sunday that only 2
people died in the incident. One of the dead was a 26-year-old man
who was a counselor at the center, the other was a 16-year-old girl
attending the support group. Eleven people were wounded in the
attack, four seriously.
“We'll bring him to justice and
exercise the full extent of the law against him,” Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu told lawmakers.
As the police hunted for the killer and
politicians vowed justice, the gay community turned out en masse to
condemn the killings. Within hours of the attack, hundreds of
Israelis joined a rally outside the crime scene. On Sunday,
thousands more took to the streets in impromptu marches against
homophobia and vigils to remember the dead and the wounded.
Politicians came out to speak to the
crowds. Knesset Member Sheily Yacimovich said: “A man doesn't just
get up one day and shoot for no reason. Someone influenced him.”
Openly gay Knesset Member Nitzan
Horowitz added: “The heart refuses to accept what occurred just 50
meters from here in that humble basement apartment. Whatever the
shooter's motives were, this was a hate crime.”
Perhaps the most stirring speech came
from Kadima Party Leader Tzipi Livni who said: “I came here to show
my support for those who live in the proud gay community and are
grieving their dead. I hope that this terrible day will also give
you strength and mark a turning point. This day should give children
the strength to tell their parents 'I'm gay'. This day should give
parents the strength to love their children for who they are. This
day should give the strength to make a change within Israeli society,
so that it will be proud of its gay community.”
Unlike its Jerusalem counterpart, Tel
Aviv is a liberal city that boasts a thriving gay community. City
Councillor Yaniv Weizman told the BBC that the city is the heart of
the gay and lesbian community in Israel.
Gay activists blamed the anti-gay
rhetoric of ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders for inciting the attack.
Conservative Jews, especially in Jerusalem, condemn being gay and
protest the city's annual Gay Pride parade.
“Beyond the pain, the frustration and
the anger, we are facing a situation in which the incitement to hate
creates an environment that allows this to happen,” gay rights
activist Mike Hamel told the AP.