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UPDATE: 20,000 Gather in Tel Aviv to Remember Victims of Anti-LGBT Shooting

TelAvivUPDATEAn estimated 20,000 mourners gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday to remember the victims of last week’s attack that killed two people at the Tel Aviv Gay and Lesbian Association – a community center for LGBT teens.

GLAAD’s original post on the tragedy in Tel Aviv can be found here.

Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, addressed the crowd and emphasized that Israel would not be bullied by anti-LGBT hatred:

We are a nation of 'Thou shalt not kill'. Those shots hurt us all, as Jews and as Israelis. All people were created in God's 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. To freedom we were born, and in freedom we will live.

The suspect in last week’s shooting spree remains at large. Though the killer’s motivation has yet to be verified, The New York Times quoted Israel’s Minister of Internal Security, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, who speculated that the crime had “homophobic motives.”

The vigil coincided with a similar but unrelated incident during which an Israeli soldier was arrested for allegedly making death threats against the LGBT community. The Jerusalem Post reported on the incident in an article published Sunday:

On Saturday evening, a soldier was arrested in Jerusalem for posting death threats on a gay Internet forum… "He threatened to attack the gay community. He wrote things like 'get ready for another hit. It's coming. Don't say you weren't warned,'" [said] Jerusalem Police spokesman Shmulik Ben-Ruby.

Despite the recent surge in the visibility of anti-LGBT bias, Israel is remarkably accepting of its LGBT citizens. The Associated Press illustrated Israel’s acceptance for its LGBT citizens in an article published last week:

Israel’s gays and lesbians typically enjoy freedoms similar to those of gays in European countries. Gay soldiers serve openly in the military, and openly gay musicians and actors are among the country’s most popular. Tel Aviv holds a festive annual gay parade, rainbow flags are often seen flying from apartment windows and there is a city-funded open house for the community.

Speaking on the still-at-large killer, President Peres said that "Israel will not put up with such an injustice and will not rest until the murderer is brought to trial. The bullets that hit the gay community last week hurt us all.”

GLAAD will continue to monitor the media’s coverage of the tragedy in Tel Aviv.

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