Just as there can be no substitute for a first hand witnessing of Ground Zero, where New York City’s World Trade Center once stood, walking past the gay and lesbian youth center on Tel Aviv’s Nachmani Street on Sunday evening brought home to me the true horror of what had happened there just the night before.
Amongst the grieving Tel Avivis and burning candles – in memory of Nir Katz, 26, a volunteer at the center, and Liz Trubeshi, just 16 (fifteen others were injured, four seriously) – were signs reading “Die le’homophobia” (Enough homophobia) and “Ahava loh sina” (Love not hate). They said it all.
Outside the (mainly residential) building, I ran into Tzachi, a kiosk acquaintance. The front door of his apartment, he told me, is directly opposite the center, and on hearing the shots – of the lone, masked gunman – he loaded his gun in readiness. But he was too late. On exiting his apartment, Tzachi stumbled across two bodies, lying in pools of blood, in the building’s hallway.
I have been meaning to address the following question on melchett mike for some time now: what is it about homosexuality that so disturbs so many, otherwise reasonable, people? Actually, I will rephrase that: what is it about homosexual males that so disturbs so many, otherwise reasonable, heterosexual (ostensibly) males?
I have a few straight (ostensibly) male friends who recoil in disgust every time that they see other men holding hands or kissing (not uncommon sights in Tel Aviv). Another goes into a frenzy whenever he passes men’s clothes stores which he considers too camp. One doesn’t, I suppose, have to be a brilliant psychotherapist to come up with plausible explanations for such behavior.
But repressed, conflicted and/or closet homosexuals apart, why the hell should it bother anyone where some men like to stick their todgers (or take another’s)?
My religious cousin yesterday trotted out the “it’s unnatural” argument. I informed him that I had recently seen research indicating that over fifty percent of heterosexual couples either regularly indulge in or have experimented with – I don’t recall which (I didn’t take notes, but you get the point) – anal sex.
He retorted that, if everyone in the world was gay, it would signal the end of the human race. But not everyone in the world is gay. And what about single people, those with fertility problems, etc? Should we discriminate against them too?
It is interesting to note that male homophobes are, in general, not remotely disturbed by the sexual proclivities and activities of gay females. Especially not those of attractive ones. Very far from it, in fact.
Religious bigotry in Israel has certainly not helped the homosexual community. And unthinking chiloni (secular) Israelis have already pointed fingers of blame for Saturday’s attack at haredim (the ultra-Orthodox). Needless to say, that is totally wrong. It is far from inconceivable that a chiloni homophobe or just a plain nutter perpetrated the atrocity, or that it was the result of some internal dispute.
Conversely, kneejerk reactions that a haredi was unlikely to have carried it out are similarly unhelpful. Among the curious reasons provided in one particular comment to melchett mike were: “1. A haredi is recognizable with or without a mask. Beard, peyot, clothes, etc. 2. Most haredim neither have automatic rifles nor know how to use them. 3. Motzei shabbat [post-sabbath] seems an “unlikely” time for a haredi to act. 4. Where did he get the intelligence?”
It is as if, English football fan-like, many Israelis have chosen their side and will support it whatever. Such are the chasms in our society.
Anyway, another commenter to melchett mike, who opined that homosexuals are “just ill” and “halachically [according to Jewish law] should be put to death”, is merely modern, not ultra, Orthodox.
What this tragedy has brought home to me are the genuine dangers faced by Israel’s gay community (and others). Perhaps we should all be more careful in our discourse, even in our jesting, which otherwise may unwittingly create an atmosphere in which homophobic behaviour is tolerated. Whilst never having considered myself even remotely homophobic, perhaps I have not been overly sensitive to the gay community’s interests and concerns, recently penning a satirical post – Vot do you mean “gay” . . . like “happy”? (which is followed by the full gamut of commenters’ opinions) – on Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride Parade.
On Saturday night, the purpose of, and need for, such public displays of solidarity and pride suddenly and shockingly became much, much clearer.
I am sure we all wish they hadn’t.