Israeli Teenager Seriously Wounded in Stabbing Outside LGBT Youth Shelter

Police suspect family member attacked 16-year-old over objection to his sexual identity ■ Searches ongoing for the two suspects, brothers of the victim

Police at the scene of the stabbing in South Tel Aviv, July 26, 2019.
Meged Gozani

A 16-year-old boy was stabbed and seriously wounded outside an LGBTQ youth shelter in south Tel Aviv on Friday. Police suspect that the teenager was attacked by relatives because of their objection to his sexual orientation and are pursuing suspects, who fled the scene.

According to sources connected to the Beit Dror youth shelter, the boy who was stabbed is a resident of the Arab city of Tamra in the Lower Galilee, and has been living at the shelter for about a month.

>> Read more: The Mideast's Stonewall? From Iraq to Morocco, the fight for LGBTQ rights rages on ■ Israel's homophobia problem just got even worse | Opinion

Family members of the victim have tried to bring him back to Tamra a number of times, and on Friday, two of his brothers came to the entrance of the shelter, where the three had an argument. The police know their identities and consider the two to be suspects, and are conducting a broad search for them. 

A source at Beit Dror said that the two suspects arrived by car, spoke to the teenager and later stabbed him near the entrance to the shelter. One of the young people who witnessed the stabbing called for a staff member. Police were called, and the shelter's manager arrived with a medical team and evacuated the victim in an ambulance.   

The source added that the attack took place on a road near the shelter, and that the victim was able to make his way to the entrance of Beit Dror and identify the attacker as a relative of his before he collapsed. Emergency services said that he had several stab wounds and was evacuated to Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv. He is out of surgery, and now under security protection.

The boy's condition is still serious but has stabilized. He is being moved to a general intensive care unit after being anesthetized and put on a ventilator. The Israel Police said that the case is severe, and that the district police commander is involved. 

There are currently 14 young people living in Beit Dror, which serves LGBT youth between the ages of 14 and 18 who have been rejected or feel unsafe at home due to their sexual orientation. A number of them are from Israel's Arab community.

Alon Brami, the community affairs manager at the non-profit that runs Beit Dror, said that the shelter and social services were aware that the boy was under threat. He was removed from his family's home under orders from social services due to the tense situation there.

"We're accompanying him to the hospital, and at the same time our team went in to talk and give emotional support to the young people at the shelter. Now we're hoping for the best," Brami said. 

In a statement, Yael Sinai, who manages Beit Dror, expressed her and the shelter's pain and regret for the victim. "At the moment, we're giving the most attention to the teenagers who are very agitated from this event, and we're busy with treating them to preserve their mental health." 

Justice Minister Amir Ohana, the first openly gay minister in the Knesset, responded to the event Friday evening in a series of tweets. "Beit Dror is a home of kindness," he wrote, adding that he volunteered there in the past. "A place that gives shelter, warmth, a framework and a feeling of togetherness to LGBT youth who are expelled from their families and homes because of this." He also urged the public to safeguard the victim's privacy for the sake of his wellbeing.

"I think everyone who's rushing to make this stabbing political (how low can you fall, even during elections) is not even close to getting it right," Ohana wrote. "My heart is with the ward who was stabbed." He added that it was not the country nor Israeli society who alienated him, but his own family.

The Israeli LGBT youth organization IGY responded to the report of the stabbing, saying that "exactly 10 years after the murder at the Barnoar," the 2009 shooting at a Tel Aviv gay youth center that left two dead and 15 wounded, "an LGBT teenager was stabbed at the exit of a shelter. We are praying for the recovery of the victim and standing with Beit Dror on this difficult day."

Etai Pinkas Arad, who holds the LGBT portfolio in the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, said that "When the country is full of inflammatory signs, when religious leaders of most faiths are allowing our blood to be spilled, when the education minister wants to 'convert' us, there are those who hear that message and go from words to action." He added, "Hate is the revolting common denominator for all who pretend to represent the will of god through violent acts."

Arab lawmakers also responded to the stabbing. Hadash-Ta'al chairman Ayman Odeh said Friday that "It is unacceptable for us to accept any sort of violence in our society, and certainly not hate crimes, and I pray for the recovery of the boy and we are hoping for good tidings." He added, "The struggle against violence and crime in our society is a state of emergency, and is the highest priority for us."

Hadash-Ta'al MK Aida Touma-Sliman said "This is nearly the murder of an LGBT youth at the hands of his brother. He is in critical condition and I hope he comes out of it.

"This horrifying event reveals that gender violence within the family, which is sometimes murderous and is regularly directed against women, is also directed against LGBT youth who wish to live free," Touma-Sliman said. "We must fight this murderous hate from the foundations, and within our society as well."  

Statistics published by the Israeli National LGBT Task Force (Aguda) last February showed a 54 percent increase in reports of anti-LGBT attacks in 2018 from the previous year. According to the Aguda, the organization received 1,557 reports of these incidents in 2018. A quarter of reported incidents involved attacks in public spaces, and a fifth of them dealt with abuse on social media. The statistics show that every 10 hours, a member of Israel's LGBT community is attacked, but only three percent of those who report attacks file complaints with the police.

In April, Haaretz reported on the story of Osher Band, a 15-year-old transgender girl from Ashkelon who stopped going to school for six months after experiencing violence from other students, including threats on her life. At the beginning of the school year, she was attacked verbally and physically, including being threatened with a knife, and she remained at home, fearing would be killed. When she attempted to return to school, she was attacked by one of the girls from her class and hospitalized with a brain injury.