London: Mourners gather to support Tel Aviv's gay community

By Leon Symons, August 6, 2009
Israeli mourners gather around the grave of Nir Katz during his funeral in Modiin, near Tel Aviv

Israeli mourners gather around the grave of Nir Katz during his funeral in Modiin, near Tel Aviv

They started by lighting a candle. They sang songs and recited memorial prayers and made speeches of hope.

But above all they remembered Nir Katz and Liz Troubishi, who were murdered on Saturday in an act that has reverberated far beyond the shores of Israel.

The idea of a UK memorial service started with Rabbi Hillel Athias-Robles, assistant rabbi of Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue.

“We needed to come together to share our pain and hopes for the future and because of the sort of society we want to create,” he said.

More than 120 people crowded into the basement of the Montagu Centre in central London’s Maple Street — old and young, men and women, straight and gay and from all shades of the religious spectrum, including no less than seven rabbis.

And not only from London: members of a youth group from Cambridge were present, along with people from Brighton.

“I found out about this through a friend and I wanted to express my solidarity,” said Danny Shimmin, 32, from Kennington in South London. “I have just been to Tel Aviv Pride so I know what a wonderful, friendly city for gay people it is and I hope what happened on Saturday doesn’t destroy that.

“Tel Aviv is starting to be proud of its various communities and this year the official tourist infrastructure of the city was marketing the Pride event. I hope this is not a big setback.”

Emanuela, a straight mother of three children from West London who did not want to give her surname, said she came to the memorial because “such acts should not be tolerated under any circumstances. The commandment is ‘thou shalt not kill’. Anyone who is different should not be persecuted for any reason. Respect is something that should be given to everyone.”

Israeli Professor Aeyal Gross, a lecturer in international human rights but on sabbatical at SOAS, said: “It was shocking.”

Prof Gross delivered one of the speeches, saying: “The place they were murdered is a few minutes from my home in Tel Aviv. I remember the first time I went down the steps. It was the only place then. We mourn those who died and we feel traumatised.”

Israeli-born Yael Biran, 35, who has lived in England for 15 years, came to the service with her civil partner. “I really wanted to be in Tel Aviv but I just couldn’t get there.

“I wanted to support people there and do as much as I could so I’m doing it here instead.”

Last updated: 2:55pm, August 6 2009