20,000 Gather in Rabin Square Over Gay Center Shooting

Peres: Shots fired at gay and lesbian community hurt all of us - as people, as Jews, as Israelis.

Twenty thousand demonstrators or more gathered in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square Saturday night in a rally to show solidarity with Israel's gay community, including the victims shot at a TA center for gay and lesbian youth a week ago, which left two dead and a dozen wounded.

President Shimon Peres addressed the crowd, saying the shots fired at the gay and lesbian community "hurt all of us - as people, as Jews, as Israelis." Peres, who spoke against a background of a rainbow flag, mentioned the two Israelis killed in the attack, Nir Katz, 26 and Liz Trobishi, 17, saying "the person who pointed a pistol barrel at Nir Katz and Liz Trobishi pointed it all of you, all of us, at me."

The president said: "The Creator of the world did not endow anyone with the power to murder his peer." Peres added that "every person must fight against murder." Chen Langer, who was wounded in the shooting at 28 Nachmani Street, spoke before the rally. He was released from hospital shortly before the event. "It has been a bad week for Israeli society," he said.

Ori Gil, who was also wounded in the shooting, said that "no killer will leave us in the closet."

Organizers said the rally drew 70,000 people, but police estimated the number at 15,000. Several musicians performed at the gathering, including Rita, Dana International, Ninette Tayeb, Amir Fay Guttman, Keren Peles, Corinne Alal and Ivri Lider.

In Jerusalem, members of the homosexual community lit candles at Zion Square in a tribute to the Nachmani Street victims in a vigil organized by Gal Uchovsky, a gay filmmaker and TV personality.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai also spoke at the rally in his city, where he said that "we thought that in Tel Aviv-Yafo ... we had created an open and accepting society for our children."

Hours before the rally, an Israel Defense Forces soldier was arrested on suspicion of threatening people who came to demonstrate. In custody, the soldier reportedly confessed to making the threats.

Throughout Saturday, operators of transportation to the rally received telephone threats, including one caller who threatened to bring grenades to the demonstration.

A similar threat was received by organizers of transportation from Haifa. Gal Zberger, who organized a Peace Now bus to take demonstrators from Haifa to Tel Aviv, said: "I got a phone call from a number I didn't recognize. He asked for details regarding the bus. I gave him the details and asked for his name. He said 'the one with the grenade.' I asked what he meant, and he said 'today you will get hit with grenades, not just guns.'" An activist from the Be'er Sheva, Shai Gottler, said that earlier in the day, he got an anonymous phone call asking him when the buses were leaving for the rally. Gottler told the caller that the buses were leaving at around 6 P.M., and asked if he wanted a ride. In response, the caller said, "I want to come to the pickup point to throw grenades at you."

The police are investigating and hope to determine the source of the threatening calls.

Ofri Ilani, Yanir Yagana and Fadi Eyadat contributed to this article.