An estimated 20,000 Israelis filled Rabin Square in central Tel Aviv last Saturday night in remembrance of those shot the week prior in the gay youth centre. An array of Israeli stars, including Dana International, performed at the memorial rally.
Israeli president Shimon Peres addressed the crowd. The shots which struck this proud community affected us all as human beings, as Jews and as Israelis. The man who targeted the two victims targeted all of us… Everyone has the right to be different and proud… I came to share your tears after the death of two young innocents. Be strong and courageous, he said.
Former Australian Project Runway contestant Oren Nuri returned to Israel last year to pursue a fashion career. He said Tel Aviv’s gay and lesbian community found support from each other to cope with the tragedy.
It’s been crazy here. It was a complete shock. But it has been a fascinating and beautiful thing to see how the community here in Tel Aviv has responded. We help each other as one large group, he said.
We are essentially a minority inside a minority, so we must support each other, our bond is stronger.
For the moment we offer respect to the people who’ve been killed. Many community members have changed their Facebook profile pictures to a pride flag and a single lit candle.
The blatant act of hate received world-wide coverage and sparked discussion in Israeli society, with many politicians quick to defend Israel’s equality credentials.
Openly gay MK Nitzan Horowitz told the Knesset, I am a proud member of the gay community. I don’t know what went through the mind of the shooter or what was torturing his soul, but I do know one thing -” the shooter wanted to hurt as many people as possible, just because they belonged to a certain social group.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, I would like to take this opportunity to say to all of Israel’s citizens: We are a democratic country, a country of tolerance, a law-abiding state, and we will honour every person regardless of his or her beliefs.
In Sydney, Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins offered a special memorial prayer at last Friday night’s Shabbat service at the Emanuel Synagogue in Woollahra. In doing so he categorically rejected bigotry in all its guises.
Dayenu, Sydney’s Jewish GLBTI group, issued a statement saying, there is still widespread prejudice in relation to GLBT issues and until our society is willing to work on getting to know those who are different to themselves, the world will not be a safe place for gays and lesbians -” and all minority groups, Jews included.
The shooting took many by surprise because the Mediterranean city of Tel Aviv is widely known for its acceptance of diversity.
Ever since Dana International won Eurovision all the gay people in Israel have felt they had a place to go. Tel Aviv became a safe haven and as a result, internationally, Tel Aviv gained a reputation as a place for enjoyment without harassment. We have parties, clubs and beaches, Oren told SSO.
Broader Tel Aviv society has finally accepted diversity and then something like this happens.

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