Editors' Note:Guest blogger Susan Ferman-Austin is a writer, blogger and LGBT rights activist. She has served on the Board of Directors of Washington State Stonewall Democrats and the Moscow-Pullman LGBT Pride Festival. Susan is married to Phyllis Austin and they have two children, ages eleven and twelve. Susan is Jewish-American.
As my family prepared to celebrate Havdallah Saturday night, I sat down to relax at my computer for a few minutes and saw the news that three LGBT teenagers were murdered and another ten injured in an attack on a meeting for LGBT teens in Tel Aviv. These were teenagers murdered; children, killed in what at least one witness is certain was a hate crime and so are most of the people speaking to the press. Tel Aviv police obviously agreed, as all gay bars have been closed as a precaution; the suspect is still on the loose.
Like my friend Louise, from whom I heard the news, at first I had no words to describe how I feel. As the shock wore off, the heartbreak set in.
Watching my wife and children happily preparing for Havdallah and our Saturday night dinner, all I could think is that the kids killed are not much older than our own; the traumatized witnesses to this event are almost all children, too. The trauma they have suffered will be with them the rest of their lives. I pray to God that the long-term result of this horrific attack is not more hatred, yet I fear that that will be the case. The Israeli police are taking this very seriously and no doubt are as horrified and angry as I am, but much will depend on whether the attacker is caught and justice is served. Righteous anger, unsatisfied, will lead to hatred that goes both ways.
Thousands of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) Israelis have held an impromptu march through the streets of Tel Aviv after a masked gun man opened fire at a centre for gay teenagers, killing three late last night.
What kind of a monster murders children? I know that people like that exist, but (perhaps naïvely), it would never occur to me that such a thing could happen in Tel Aviv. To be sure, Israel is not immune to anti-LGBT hate crimes, but Tel Aviv is such an open and progressive city that I honestly would have considered it safe from a crime as horrific as this.
My worst fear is that this won't be an isolated incident, but a sign of things to come.
The extreme right-wing Yisrael Beitenu has garnered too much power as of late, as has the right-wing Shas Party. While most of their hateful rhetoric is aimed at Palestinians, the pervasive bigotry they are encouraging has found a new level of legitimacy after the last election. The results of that election saw the party win 15 seats in Knesset, making it the third largest after Kadima (28) and Likud (27). In March 2009, Yisrael Beitenu joined Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition and party leader Avigdor Lieberman became Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister; the party also received four other ministerial portfolios, and one deputy minister post.
Bigotry and prejudice breeds more of the same and with "respected" members of the coalition parties feeling safe enough in their bigotry to make comments such as when Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of Israel's ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, referred to President Obama as "a slave" who seeks to rule the world, it has become obvious to the world that their hatred and bigotry is directed at more minorities than just Palestinians and Haredim.
There is no telling what influence such things had on the monster who perpetrated this crime, but when any bigotry becomes legitimized, acceptable to a large segment of a society, it inevitably leads to hate crimes against all minorities becoming more likely. Let us hope and pray that this does turn out to be an isolated incident and the swift action of Tel Aviv police prevent the person (or persons) responsible for these murders from killing again.