Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Homophobic Murder in Tel Aviv

A different kind of terrorist atrocity hit Tel Aviv Saturday night. In Israel’s most liberal and gay-friendly city, and also by some measures its largest, a gunman dressed in black entered the basement room of a gay and lesbian center where a support group of young people, ages 14-21, was meeting with facilitators.  He pulled a pistol and opened fire.  Nir Katz, 26, one of the facilitators, and Liz Troubishi, 17, were murdered.  15 others were injured, 10 hospitalized, 2 in critical condition.  The gunman remains at large.  A variety of articles provide more information at, including condemnations by both Netanyahu and Livni, leaders of the two largest political parties, and background that reveals this as a radical escalation of anti-gay violence here.    

Most assume that the perpetrator acted with a religious motive.  And indeed, the ultra-orthodox have become more actively hateful in recent years.  What I find astonishing about this is that despite the widely interpreted biblical prohibition on male-male anal sex, Rabbinic Judaism actually contains a legal mechanism that would not just enable, but mandate acceptance of homosexuality.  According to a principle called pikuah nefesh, any commandment, excluding prohibitions on murder, idolatry, and adultery, is superseded if a human life is potentially at stake.  Given what we know about the relationship between the closet–self-imposed and as a function of overt social repression–and suicide and murder, it seems to me that this biblical prohibition, which does not even hold for all gays or for any lesbians, should be considered null and void.  

Such a principle of reverence for human life, pikuah nefesh should guide the ethos of a state that calls itself “Jewish.”  Instead, it has been relegated to a parodic flexibility and inconsistency by those who claim to be the standard bearers of Torah Judaism.  Steven Spielberg’s holo-kitch flick, Schindler’s List, at least popularized the Talmudic maxim that one who saves a single life is like one who has saved a universe entire.  Following the concept that all humans are created in God’s image found in the creations myths in Genesis, Rabbinic Judaism has always considered murder to be the gravest desecration of God’s holy name.

Demonstrations have been announced.  I would love to see hate crimes legislation brought to the floor of the Knesset, if only to force the leaders of religious parties to take public responsibility for the incitement that has destroyed the young lives of Nir Katz and Liz Troubishi and so hideously and blasphemously desecrated the holy name of the God they claim to represent.


  1. anna shane

    how is it this guy hasn’t been arrested?  He must be some terrorist!

    I don’t think Jews are particularly homophobic, it’s not the big deal it is to some Christians, and it’s old testament too.  It will be very interesting when the perp is caught and they find out the motivation.  Whatever it may be, I’m sure to be surprised.  

  2. It’s strange how the word ‘terrorist’ has been exclusively co-opted to extreme versions of Islam, when we all know that there’s an apocalyptic terrorist aspect to all the three Abrahamic religions: Christianity particularly, from the millenialists to McVeigh, but obviously Judaism has its violent messianic strains too.

    I wonder where the Rabbinical edicts against homosexuality come from? Are they similiar to the statutes Christian evangelists quote from Deuteronomy where it is considered an abomination for a man to lie with a man? (Or a menstruating women to enter the temple… or someone wearing pigskin).

    I sometimes wish that the Qu’ran’s Surah 5 was as well known at the Talmudic Maxim pikuah nefesh, even though Bush did quote it once

    If you save one human it means you’ve saved the whole world: if you kill one person it means you’ve killed the whole world

    But it’s not only the ‘people of the book’ and monotheism capable of justifying terroristic violence. Both the extreme nationalist Shivaites in India, and Aum Shukiro sect used Hinduism and Buddhism for apocalyptic ends.

    Hate finds any route it pleases….

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