Israel Reeling from the worst attack ever aimed at homosexuals in Israel, members of the country’s gay community and their supporters rallied Sunday in the heart of Tel Aviv a day after a masked gunman killed two people at a center for gay youth and escaped.
As protesters with rainbow flags mourned the victims and condemned the homophobic sentiment assumed to be behind the attack, police hunted for the assailant throughout a city that has long prided itself on a live-and-let-live attitude and a thriving gay community.
“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,” said Arnon Hirsch, a 47-year-old lawyer who was one of several hundred people who took part in the protest near the center attacked Saturday night.
Hirsch said he is openly gay and does not intend to act differently now. “I have no intention of giving in to terror,” he said. “I’m not going to hide anywhere.”
Outside the center, a bouquet of flowers rested on the curb near barricades erected by police and a sign reading, “Stop Homophobia.”
A masked man entered the center for gay teens in downtown Tel Aviv late Saturday night, pulled out a pistol and opened fire, according to Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman. The shooter then fled the scene on foot, Rosenfeld said.
Photographs taken inside after the shooting showed bodies lying near a billiard table and a smear of blood on the white-tile floor.
The dead were identified as a 26-year-old man who was a counselor at the center and a 17-year-old girl. Eleven people were wounded, four of them critically.