August 8, 2009 / 8:22 PM / 11 years ago

Huge crowd shows solidarity with Tel Aviv gays

Israelis wave rainbow flags as they attend a rally against the recent shooting attack in Tel Aviv August 8, 2009. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in central Tel Aviv Saturday to express solidarity with the gay community, a week after a gunman killed two people at a gay youth centre.

President Shimon Peres led political leaders in the show of support and spoke from a podium decorated with the rainbow flag.

“The bullets that hit the gay community at the beginning of the week struck us all as people, as Jews, as Israelis ... criminals will not set our agenda,” Peres said in a speech.

Last Saturday, a masked gunman burst into a community centre for gay teenagers in Tel Aviv and shot dead a 26-year-old man and a 16-year-old girl. Thirteen other people were wounded.

A crowd of tens of thousands filled Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, a focal point for major Israeli protests, for the peaceful show of solidarity, a police spokesman said.

“Israel will never reconcile itself with such a crime and will not rest until the criminal is brought to justice ... This terrible act of murder will not be wiped from our hearts,” Peres said. Police have not revealed a motive for the shooting.

Although cosmopolitan Tel Aviv has a bustling gay scene, open homosexuality is shunned in conservative areas of Israel.

Gay pride marches in Jerusalem meet with often violent protests from ultra-Orthodox Jews, who view homosexuality as an abomination against God.

Reporting by Ohad Asseo, writing by Ori Lewis in Jerusalem; Editing by Robert Woodward

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