More than 20,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv’s Yitzhak Rabin Square last week to express solidarity with Israel’s LGBT community following the tragic murders in the Tel Aviv offices of veteran NIF grantee GLBT Israel. President Shimon Peres and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai both addressed the crowd and there were musical tributes from many of the country’s leading artists.
Speaking beneath the rainbow flag, Peres said, "God created man in his own image, and all citizens have equal rights. All men are born equal, and every citizen has the right to be who he is, to be free and proud."
Prior to the rally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a condolence visit to the GLBT offices in Tel Aviv, where a lone gunman killed Nir Katz, 26, and Liz Trobishi, 16. Police have yet to apprehend the murderer.
Meanwhile, GLBT Israel and flagship NIF grantee Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) have written to Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi to protest the comments of IDF Chief Rabbi Brigadier General Avihai Ronski about homosexual soldiers. After an interview with a gay religious officer was featured in the official IDF magazine Bamahane, Ronski insisted that homosexuality was not an appropriate topic for the publication and did not reflect the IDF's way of life.
Photo caption: A placard at the rally says "thou shalt not murder"
In his letter, ACRI legal counsel and NIF Law Fellow alum Dan Yakir wrote, "Only a few days ago the army chief rabbi told a group of religious soldiers that according to halacha women should not serve in the army. If there is any justification for having an army chief rabbi, it is that he should serve the spiritual needs of all soldiers and respect the dignity of men and women, homosexuals and straights."
In response, Colonel Yaffa Mor of the IDF Supreme Command wrote, "The IDF's policies [on homosexuals] have not changed and the Chief Rabbi Brigadier General Avihai Ronski's views on the Bamahane article were expressed in private to a small number of senior officers involved in the subject and not in a public forum."
The IDF has clearly moved forward on the subject of homosexuality. In 2001 Bamahane was closed down for two weeks after it featured an article about a homosexual officer.