Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tel Aviv Gunman Still at-Large

Anti-Gay Murders Rock Tel Aviv
Police hunting for gunman who killed two in LGBT youth center
Gay City News 08.02.2009

One day after a masked gunman opened fire at an LGBT youth center in Tel Aviv, killing two and wounding 13 others, Associated Press reports that hundreds of Israeli police are combing nearby streets in an effort to track down the murderer. identified the two killed as Nir Katz, a 26-year-old counselor at the club, and Liz Trubeshi, alternately reported as 17 or 16.

The August 1 attack targeted a weekly event held for LGBT teens in a club in the basement of the Tel Aviv Gay and Lesbian Association. The club offers counseling and a place to gather and socialize for youth, many of whom have not yet come out.

Tel Aviv is widely considered a more cosmopolitan city than Jerusalem, with a large and vibrant LGBT community. Reuters quoted Avi Sofer, a gay activist, saying, "The biggest shock is to think that it happened in Tel Aviv, which is the most tolerant city in the country.”

Four of the 13 taken to the hospital were described as having serious injuries. The Israeli media was full of pictures showing the blood-stained aftermath of the attack, and witnesses described an horrific scene, with bodies strewn on the floor surrounding a billiards table.

Within hours of the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the killer, "We'll bring him to justice and exercise the full extent of the law against him." President Shimon Peres described the shootings as "despicable murder" that "a cultured and enlightened people cannot accept.”

Police are keeping a tight lid on details of their investigation, concerned that it could be compromised by leaks.

Nitzan Horowitz, the only openly gay member of the Knesset, described the killings as a “hate crime.”

"We demand that the government put an end to this hate campaign and that the Education Ministry institute proper information and education at schools in order to prevent the recurrence of such shameful events," Horowitz said, according to Reuters.

Israel’s chief rabbis also condemned the attack.

But the Associated Press quoted Mike Hamel of the Tel Aviv Gay and Lesbian Association, which sponsors the youth center, as blaming religious extremists for the killings.

"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," Hamel said.

In recent years, gay pride celebrations in Israel have faced hostile responses from Ultra-Orthodox Jews, who take to the streets to voice their opposition to shows of LGBT visibility.

In 2005, one ultra-Orthodox anti-gay protester stabbed three marchers in a Jerusalem gay pride parade, and according to the AP, last year a Knesset member from the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party said earthquakes were God’s punishment for Israel’s tolerance of the gay and lesbian community.

Shas Party leaders on August 2 condemned the attacks.

The Associated Press quoted Rona Keinan, a songwriter and LGBT activist, saying of the club that youth “go there because it is a refuge of sorts for them."

"The very thought that a person might enter that protected space and simply open fire at them is shocking,” Keinan wrote in the daily Yediot Ahrono. “I just want to cry.”

Israelis by the hundreds and thousands took to the streets, in Tel Aviv and elsewhere, on both Saturday and Sunday, to voice their outrage over the shootings.

According to Ynetnews, Nir Katz’s stepfather said of the 26-year-old youth counselor, "He believed in his own way, lived with a boyfriend for years. His goal was to help people who were struggling and who were still in the closet. He considered it a mission."

Liz Trubeshi’s family was described as “closed off in their home.”

"We are hurting and are having a hard time,” Trubeshi’s aunt Cindy said, according to Ynetnews. “It's hard to talk about it."

An unidentified friend of Trubeshi’s was quoted saying, “She was very quiet in class. A closed-off and introverted person. I don't know what to say, she didn't even turn 17. She didn't talk about her sexual orientation but was very open on the gay-lesbian issue."

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