Hot or Not.
Being gay wasn't an option for us, comments Paul Bentley, in shock after learning that two people were killed in a gay Tel Aviv teen club and at least 11 more wounded by a masked gunman spraying bullets around the room from his automatic pistol. Police said the bloody incident was more likely criminal activity, not a terror attack. [Translation: no Arab involvement.] The city is reeling.
Israeli friends of mine are horrified by Saturday's shooting. They thought their country had come further than this. One of them is disappointed because after urging British non-Jewish friends to visit Tel Aviv for years, now he knows they won't.
But they forget where Tel Aviv is – just half an hour by car from Gaza and 20 minutes away from Bnei Brak, one of the most ultra-orthodox areas in Israel. There is a bus you can get from the beach in Tel Aviv to Bnei Brak. The journey begins with string bikinis and boys in tight shorts. Half an hour later the bus is full of long skirts and black hats. And the genders are segregated; men at the front, women at the back.
Five years ago, I spent four months of my gap year studying Talmud at a biblical college in Maalot Daphna, an ultra-orthodox area of Jerusalem. The Rabbis at the college were kind but their views were entrenched. We argued about the role of women and the dangers of assimilating with non-Jews but we never discussed homosexuality. It wasn't an option for us to be gay so there wasn't anything to talk about. I hadn't yet come out as gay and there was no way I was going to declare my abominable secret.
Nothing illustrates the ideological divide in Israel between dati'im and chilonim – the orthodox and secular – better than the difference in attitudes of people in the country's two largest cities, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv – or "Hell Aviv" as my Talmud teachers called it.
Guest commentator, crossposted from The Independent of London. Meanwhile, the Independent's correspondent Ben Lynfield adds:
Leaders of Shas, a party that has depicted homosexuality as blasphemy evoking divine retribution, condemned the attack but stressed that the motives were unclear.
Conditions for gay Israelis have improved in many ways over recent years. Gay couples es have been recognised by the courts, gay soldiers serve openly in the military and openly gay musicians and actors are among the country's most popular. Rainbow flags are often seen flying from apartment windows in Tel Aviv. Mr Tsror, the league spokesman, said that the number of Israelis coming out has been on the increase in recent years.
But accompanying this has been an incitement to violence. Last year, a lawmaker from Shas declared in parliament that earthquakes were divine punishment for homosexual activity. Earlier, another MP from the same party said that a homosexual is "worse than a beast". In 2005, an ultra-orthodox youth stabbed three people at a gay pride parade in Jerusalem. In May this year, a group of youths attacked a man during a gay pride parade in the southern city of Eilat.