Manhunt In Tel Aviv; President and Prime Minister Condemn Massacre of LGBT Youth
August 2nd, 2009
Hundreds of police are swarming the streets of Tel Aviv and surrounding areas, searching for the gunman who shot and killed two youths meeting at an LGBT center Saturday night in what is being described as the worst attack against the LGBT community in Israel. The attack was condemned from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, opposition leader Tzipi Livni, Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai and several others.
The dead were identified as 26-year-old Nir Katz from Givatayim, who was a counselor at the center, and 17-year-old Liz Trubeshi from Holom, who was attending the LGBT youth support meeting. About a dozen more were injured, five seriously. Ten were still hospitalized Sunday morning. The attack shocked the residents of Tel Aviv, a seaside city that is well-known for its more liberal, tolerant attitudes, and is regarded as a safe-haven for the country’s LGBT community. The Jerusalem Post quoted the chairman of the youth organization:
These were teenagers,” Yaniv Weisman, chairman of the Israeli Gay Youth organization, told The Jerusalem Post.
With tears in his eyes, Weisman added, “They came to this center from across the country to talk to one another and receive help. This was supposed to be a safe place for them. Someone knew what they were doing when they came here. This is not a pub or a club.”
“Today, someone sent a message that gays in Tel Aviv and Israel are not safe,” Weisman said.
One 16-year-old victim of the shooting noted that many of the teens at the community center were not out to their families:
“I’m horrified to think that this is the way the parents of some of my friends will find out,” Or Gil, who was taken to Ichilov Hospital following a knee and chest injury, told Haaretz.
“At about 10.40 P.M. someone came over, all dressed in black and wearing a black mask,” he recounted. “I thought it was a joke at first, but he immediately opened fire. People took cover under the bed and tables, but there were no screams. I hid under a table with someone else. It’s a small place; there’s just one terrace. Once you’re inside, there’s nowhere to run.”
Gil came to the center every week to take part in activities for teenagers.
“It’s for 14- to 21-year-olds,” he said. “Teenagers just hang out there, talking and listening to music.”
“I love this place,” Gil concluded, “but I don’t know if I will ever go back there. I want to, but it’s too soon to say.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyaho, speaking at the Israeli Cabinet’s weekly meeting, offered his condolences to the families and condemned the attack:
“I unequivocally condemn the shocking murder,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “I have spoken with Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and stand by the police in searching for and finding the killer. We will bring him to justice and will prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.”
…”I say to the Israeli people: We are a democratic country, we are a country of tolerance, a country of laws, and we must respect every person, whoever and wherever he is,” he said.
President Shimon Peres also condemned what he called “a despicable murder“:
President Shimon Peres said in a statement that “the dreadful murder that was committed yesterday in Tel Aviv against teenagers and young people is a murder that a cultured and enlightened people cannot accept.”
“Murder and hate are the two most terrible crimes in society,” Peres said in a statement. “Police must make a supreme effort to capture the loathsome murderer and the people must join together in condemning this despicable act.”
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni also expressed her “sadness and shock” over the murders, adding, “This difficult event must bring society to shake off prejudice, and to accept and recognize the right of every person to live in respect and safety.” Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai promised that the city would continue to uphold its pluralistic values:
“Tel Aviv has always been a bastion of pluralism, tolerance and openness, and no one will succeed in hurting the city’s character,” he said. “Our city will continue to be a home for the gay community, and we will fight for the right of every person to live his life in the city according to his beliefs and conscience.”