#WeAreOrlando

Keeping an eye on the latest news about the Orlando massacre coming from the Israeli LGBT community and the Jewish world.

UPDATE, June 15: For Gay Israelis, Orlando Massacre Reopens Tel Aviv Wounds: When Yonatan Books, a survivor of the 2009 shooting at a Tel Aviv gay youth club, heard of the horrific Orlando massacre at a gay bar that killed 49 on Saturday night, he couldn’t help but draw parallels to his own experience. “My heart is with them. I truly understand what they’re going through because I went through exactly the same thing,” Books said in an interview with Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “Even with all the pain, you have to go on and you have to realize that the ones who survived are still alive.” The Jewish Voice

June 15: About 50 people gathered at the Evita gay bar in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night for a solidarity rally with the victims of the Orlando club massacre, in an event organized by gay, lesbian, transgendered, and bisexual rights activists and the Anti-Defamation League in Israel. “Sometimes I feel we grow accustomed to these kind of events in both of our countries,” US Deputy Ambassador to Israel Keith Mines told the gathering. The Times of Israel

See their Faces. Say Their Names.

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June 15: When the festival of Shavuot ended in Israel on Sunday night and the news of the Orlando attack sunk in, the emotion was so strong for Sarah Weil and some other local LGBTI activists, so they headed to the city-centre Zion Square.

Around 50 of them gathered, lit candles, and mourned the dead. As they did, and as Weil held her rainbow flag with a Star of David, they invited passersby to join them, to discuss the attack, and to absorb the news together.

“A lot of people asked us what were doing there, and then gave us their support,” Weil told The AJN, noting that this included all sectors of Jerusalem’s ideological and religious population, including Jews ranging from secular to ultra-Orthodox Jews, and Arabs. Australian Jewish News

June 14: “I fell asleep around 4 a.m. Around 7:30 a.m., my phone started blowing up with text messages and calls from people from all over the United States, England, even Australia, checking in to make sure we were safe. We are OK – well, alive. Not sure about OK.” – Gay Jewish resident of Orlando writes. Cleveland Jewish News

Outside the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, passersby pause briefly near the memorial tent set up on Monday afternoon to honor the victims of the weekend gay nightclub massacre in Orlando. Some bend over a small table inside to sign the leather-bound memorial book. Others simply snap photos. They stand back to make sure their lenses capture the American and rainbow flags flapping wildly in the wind and the small bouquet of flowers propped up against the wall.

Imri Kalmann, co-director of the Israel National LGBT Taskforce (also known as “The Aguda”) is the first to sign the book. “We honor your grief and great loss,” he writes. “We stand with you and promise to fight together for a future of peace and acceptance.” Haaretz

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein expressed his condolences to US Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Paul Ryan over the deadly shooting at a gay bar in Orlando: “On behalf of all the members of the Israeli Knesset, I would like to express our condolences and to join in the great sorrow of the tragedy that befell you and the deaths of innocent people from this crime,” said Edelstein. Breaking Israel News

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Orlando casualties were victims of homophobia. These people were doing nothing wrong,” he said. “They were dancing with friends and enjoying music with loved ones. The terrorist murdered them because he was driven by intolerance to the LGBT community and driven by hatred for freedom and diversity.” The Times of Israel

Jewish groups in Orlando respond to the mass shooting attack at the Pulse nightclub with messages of sadness and sympathy, and calls to action. “The Jewish community has been impacted many times by terror attacks, and we stand united in denouncing all violence. We are in close touch with local, federal and state authorities, and we have full faith and confidence in our law enforcement,” says the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando in a statement. The Times of Israel

Idit Klein, head of Keshet, says the first calls of solidarity after Orlando shooting came from Muslim leaders. The Times of Israel

Israel stands with US after nightclub attack: In a letter to President Barack Obama, Reuven Rivlin says Monday that Israel stands “shoulder to shoulder with our American brothers and sisters” after the attack on the LGBT community. NBC News

Tel Aviv city hall lights up with rainbow flag colors, as people around the world hold vigils in memory of the victims of mass shooting in Florida.

From Tel Aviv to New York City, people gathered on Sunday to hold vigils in honor of the victims of the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The Tel Aviv municipality building lit up Sunday night with rainbow flag colors in solidarity, while, elsewhere in the city, members of the LGBTQ community gathered to light candles in memory of the dozens killed in the attack. Continue reading in Haaretz 

The mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai, sent a letter on behalf of residents of Tel Aviv to the governor of Florida and the mayor of Orlando.

“It is with great sorrow that I send you my condolences for the tragic terror attack which happened in your city/state. My sympathy during these hours is particularly with the families and relatives of the victims who have to suffer the terrible loss of their loved ones by this horrible act of terror. I wish to also send my blessing of health and quick recovery to the wounded who have been afflicted by the attack,” the letter reads. BreitBart.com

Central Florida’s Jewish community started laying the groundwork for interfaith cooperation with Muslims Monday as the nation reeled in grief and anger after an anti-gay gunman killed 50 people in the worst-ever mass killing in recent U.S. history. The Forward

In the UK, Jewish journalist Benjamin Cohen, who is the Chief Executive of PinkNews said: “The attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando is shocking and upsetting for LGBT people, their families, their friends and the wider community. As the largest mass shooting in US history, it shows how hatred for LGBT people can descend into sickening violence.

Reform Judaism also paid tribute, saying they were “appalled by the loss of innocent lives in Orlando and we condemn this act of homophobic terror.” Jewish News UK

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder on Sunday condemned the deadly terror attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. “On behalf of world Jewry, I condemn this horrific act of terror and wish to express the Jewish people’s solidarity with the victims and with the LGBT community,” Lauder said. Jerusalem post

“On behalf of the people and government of Israel I extend our deepest condolences to the American people following last night’s horrific attack on the LGBT community in Orlando,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamine Netanyahu said in a statement issued in English. The Indian Express

Dozens of Israelis celebrated in Orlando club one week before massacre. American-Israeli organized a party just one week before in the same Orlando club where 50 people were murdered; ‘There were at least 20 Israelis with me, security is a joke here. Israel is on another level.’ Ynet News