When Y. telephoned his father to tell him he had been wounded in a terror attack, he was told to suffer in silence. The 20-year-old was wounded in the shooting attack at a Tel Aviv gay youth center in August that took the lives of two people and wounded 13.
"They brought me into the operating room, took off my clothes and then brought me into a bigger room which was freezing cold," Y. told Haaretz in a letter. "The doctor asked me, 'Tell me, does anyone in your family even know?'"
Y. called home, and when his father answered the phone, he told him he had been shot during the attack and that his hand was shattered. "My father answered in a gruff tone of voice, 'Yes, I know, I'm watching it on TV. I told you not to go to places where those deviants are, didn't I? You're a pervert and now you'll suffer in silence. It's too bad you weren't among the dead."
Four months after the attack, Y. has yet to return home and is living with the family of a woman who took him in to live with her after meeting him in the hospital.
Y. has not spoken to or met with his father since the incident. "The moment he talked to me like that, I automatically froze and hung up the phone," he wrote.
At the youth center run by the Israeli Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Association, volunteers are trying to rebuild the center that was once a vibrant focus of Tel Aviv's gay community, using tape to cover the bullet holes still dotting the walls. While much remains unchanged, youths returning to the center couldn't help noticing the security guard and five CCTV cameras deployed around the building.
Shaul Gannon, the center's director, will receive the 2009 Tel Aviv municipality's award for outstanding volunteer activity for his work with Israel's gay community. He said that since the center was reopened a month after the attack, attendance has been even higher than before the tragedy. "When people asked if youths would come back, I said that those who come here had gone through so much in life that, as hard as it is to say it, the fact that someone came in shooting was not the worst thing to have happened to them."
Gannon described the center as "a place that allows them to be who they are, without masks and without lies."
On the night of the attack, Y. arrived at the center at 7:30. He was one of the first people to arrive, but soon familiar faces started pouring in. After chatting with some friends he started a game of billiards.
At around 10:30 P.M., everything went wrong. "Suddenly we heard strong booms. We didn't understand what it was," Y. wrote. "The murderer came into the center and started shooting."
Y. recalled feeling pain in his left hand but not understanding where it came from. The next thing he knew, he was evacuated to the hospital, where he underwent a series of examinations before doctors operated on his hand.
Recalling his experience of coming out of the closet, Y. wrote, "My mom accepted it right away and we talked about it. My dad took it as if I were asking for help, as if something wasn't right. He told me it was just nonsense that had to do with growing up, that there was nothing to worry about."
Y. summed up his father's attitude toward his sexual orientation in one word: "Repression."