The investigation into the shootings at the gay community center in the middle of Tel Aviv Saturday night, in which Liz Trobishi and Nir Katz were murdered, is just beginning and under a gag order. So it is still too early to draw conclusions on the identity of the murderer and his motives.

But it is not too early to comment on the atmosphere of public opinion before the murders, as well as the reports in the media and the responses to the first such event in Israel.

Israeli society has come quite far over the last generation in accepting gay and lesbian people and couples, and has gradually freed itself from prejudices and removed legal and social barriers that discriminated against people just because of their sexual orientation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's response to the murders at the start of yesterday's cabinet session, "Ours is a country built on tolerance and we must respect all people as they are," expressed an appropriate and welcome openness, and his words must be a guide for all state institutions.

But the prime minister's position is not agreed on or acceptable to parts of the public, and in particular among the religious and ultra-Orthodox, who hold prejudices and false beliefs and openly incite against gays and lesbians and their rights. This is ostensibly based on the excuse of keeping Jewish tradition and honoring the Torah.

The incitement reawakens every June before the Gay Pride parades in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Even if the parades pass quietly and without violence, the result of preparation and dialogue beforehand, they are still accompanied by expressions of hate and abuse - and at least in Jerusalem they are also dependent on heavy police protection.

We must fight this incitement and encourage openness and equal rights in every legal, public and political way possible. The responsibility to do so falls on our leaders and opinion makers, even among the conservative religious groups that find it hard to accept the freedom of sexual orientation. We must hope that the clear condemnation of the murders expressed yesterday by ultra-Orthodox politicians and leaders was an expression of their understanding of the change in the social reality and the need to accept others and "respect all people as they are."

This is the only basis that can exist for a public dialogue on the gay community and its rights - and this basis needs to remain strong regardless of the results of the investigation.