Thursday, 6 August 2009

Response to the shooting in Tel Aviv

From the MCC North London newsletter

A lot of us were at Brighton Pride on Saturday, enjoying the rain and the carnival atmosphere. People like me, who had never been before, were marvelling at how open everything was, how people marched with their families and the whole town seemed to turn out. There was no visible counter-protest and it was incredibly liberating to be a part of something like that.

But then, when I came home, it was like a rude awakening. I turned my laptop on and saw the following: Two killed in shooting at Tel Aviv gay centre. It seemed unreal.

I flew to Tel Aviv in December, and spent 6 days travelling around Israel. I was struck by the atmosphere of Tel Aviv. Whereas Jerusalem was defined by boundaries and quarters, where you could tell the culture of an area by the language displayed on the buses travelling there, Tel Aviv felt more like a part of London. Languages mixed in the street, menus reflected cultures converging, and there is evidence of a small, but busy, gay scene. My friends who live and spend time in Israel talk about Tel Aviv as a haven for LGBT people who have suffered discrimination in the more religious areas of the country, and it felt like that to me as a visitor.

I was encouraged that by the time I found out, only a few hours after the shooting occurred, there were already people gathering to hold vigil outside the centre in memory of 26-year-old Nir Katz and 16-year-old Liz Tarboushi, and the 13 others who were injured. The man dressed in black, wearing a mask and carrying a gun, who inflicted all this terror on the community, seems to have acted alone in an act of violence. The community who were devastated, however, stood as one body of many parts amidst this violence to pray for peace and bless the memories of those they have lost.

And it is the image of the Israeli LGBT community and their allies standing together in peace that gives me hope. The responses of Israeli politicians, who unanimously condemn the shootings as hate crime, remind us that society is moving on. Individuals may hold on to their hate, and this can devastate us, but we have solidarity and we have our allies. Most of all, we have the strength of the God of Israel and of Jesus Christ, who called Israel His home. We pray for peace in Israel, for reconciliation of communities of different religious and cultural affiliations and for strength for the young people of Israel to be who they are and to continue to stand as one against hate in all its forms.

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