Tel Aviv is one of the world's unabashed gay capitals, according to Matthew Teller's report in the British Independent, which examines a shooting incident in a gay teen club last August. Teller questions whether hate crimes can be looked at outside of a political context in today's Middle East, especially considering the sharp divisions between the secular and the religious components of society.:
Tales abound of gay Palestinians being blackmailed into collaborating with the Israeli security services, or even into spying for one Palestinian faction against another, often with fatal consequences.
Nitzan Horowitz, the only gay Knesset member, is blunt. "People in Tel Aviv think the struggle is over – not at all!" he says. "More than 50 per cent of kids in first and second grade are in ultra-orthodox or Arab schools, where LGBT rights are not addressed. In 10 years' time those people will vote. I don't see this liberal paradise."
Every Saturday night, there's a party atmosphere-- singles, couples and groups, gay and straight, mixing in pursuit of a good time. Going out is an obsession. It lends a unique vibrancy – but one person described it to me as national escapism. To journalist Lisa Goldman, her home city is starting to feel like Weimar Berlin. "I'm worried," she says. "This exuberance is inarticulate. We've become used to hopelessness."
Uzi Even's observation about a common enemy conceals the possibility that the greatest threat to Jewish Israeli society may lie within. In Chen Langer's words: "We want others to acknowledge Israel as the home of the Jewish people, but we ourselves cannot define what 'Jewish' is."
For many secular Jews – both within and beyond the Tel Aviv bubble – Israel's religious right has corrupted society and continues to hold the country back. For many religious Jews, secure with the occupation, contemporary secularism – exemplified by advances in gay rights – represents the gravest threat to the nation's well-being.
The shooting at the Aguda – apparently a one-off atrocity, possibly committed with inside knowledge – should be a wake-up call. It has exposed fault-lines running right through Jewish-Israeli society. If unbridged, they could pull the country apart.