Four years after Tel Aviv’s gay center shooting, young Israelis look back at the night that changed their lives

The suspected murderer has been jailed, but the story is far from over. Five intimate portraits.

Four years have passed since the murders at Barnoar, a club in Tel Aviv for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. On August 1, 2009, a masked individual sprayed the club with gunfire, killing Nir Katz, 27, and Liz Trubeshi, 16. Others were wounded. Until not long ago, it seemed that the case would never be solved. We got used to living alongside it, as though it had never happened.

Four years have passed since the murders at Barnoar. Immediately afterward there were rallies, empathy, demonstrations of support for gay rights and tolerance. Public opinion seemed to have changed. But two months ago, after a lengthy period of groping in the dark, the police announced that the case had been solved: Hagai Felician, a known felon from the Bnei Brak neighborhood of Pardes Katz, was indicted on two counts of murder on July 10. Police also revealed that a relative of Felician had turned to Barnoar director Shaul Gonen for advice prior to the murders. According to an immunity-from-indictment agreement signed with police, Gonen admitted to having had a sexual encounter with the then minor. “Felician allegedly decided to take matters into his own hands, and together with another suspect, Tarlan Hankishayev, and the state’s witness, plotted to harm Gonen,” according to Wikipedia. This opened a Pandora’s box. In addition to ugly comments, festering with violence and hatred, there were also politicians who, clumsily courting the “gay pride vote” in the last election campaign, asked whether the act of indiscriminately shooting at dozens of young gays and lesbians met the definition of a hate crime. Gays are good for drawing tourists to the Pride Parade. Enshrining equality of rights in the law is apparently too much.

Four years have passed since the murders at Barnoar. Immediately after that night, we spoke with six young people who had come out of the closet early and had time to confront the upheaval in their lives in a concrete way. Some of them were in the club at the time of the shooting; others were regulars but that evening were spared the horror by chance. They told about a feeling of empowerment after coming out of the closet ‏(and about the violence and the humiliation they had been forced to endure because of it‏). Try telling them that Israel is a liberal paradise and that homophobia is a thing of the past.

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