The political discourse in Israel regarding LGBTQ rights and equality in the last couple of decades was heavily influenced by two major hate crime events: the shooting in the ‘Bar Noar’, a queer youth club in Tel Aviv, and the murder of Shira Banki, a 16 years old girl in the Jerusalem pride march.
Bar Noar Shooting
On August 1st, 2009, a masked shooter stormed into the “Bar Noar”, a queer youth club located at the LGBTQ* center in Tel Aviv. It was a Saturday night evening, and the club was filled with teenagers and young people socializing in a club that was considered a safe space – for some of them, it was the only place that allowed them to be “who they are”, without hiding their sexual or gender identity. The shooter killed Nir Katz, a 26 years old who served as a volunteer in the club, and Liz Tarobishi, a 17 years old girl who attended it, and wounded eleven others, before escaping the scene. Until this day, the police did not manage to apprehend the shooter.
The traumatic event fueled a massive protest on behalf of the Israeli queer community, as it allowed it to stress out the LGBTQphobia and daily feeling of insecurity that all community members face. News coverage of the crime scene equivocally “outed” many of the club’s attendees – some of them minors – whose families and friends have learned for the first time that their children identify as LGBTQ* on national TV. Some of the victims who were injured had to deal with expressions of LGBTQphobia on behalf of their parents, who refused to visit them near their hospital bed to avoid the association with the LGBTQ* community. These responses reflected the deep LGBTQphobia that queer youth deal with to the broad national discourse.
Shira Banki, a 16 years old high school student from Jerusalem, was stabbed to death by Yishay Shlisel, an extremist ultraorthodox who raged a terror attack at the Jerusalem Pride March of 2015. Shlisel was known to the police due to another stabbing attack he committed ten years earlier, at the Pride March of 2005. After spending ten years in prison, Shlisel was released – and committed another stabbing soon thereafter.
The Jerusalem Pride March is not a typical march, as it is set in the highly sensitive public sphere of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, it is a holy city that bears special significance to both Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and its population consists of various population groups from different religious, ethnic and socioeconomic characteristics. For all of these reasons, the march in Jerusalem is symbolic and political. The call for rights and LGBTQ* equality, while coming from the streets of Jerusalem, receives a special political, social and even spiritual depth. The murder of Shira Banki, a 16 year old, by a religious extremist, was not only a shocking event for the Israeli public, but also highlighted the urgency of the demand for tolerance and inclusion in Jerusalem and in Israel as a whole.