Thousands Show Solidarity at Rally for Gay Center Shooting Victims

IDF soldier arrested for threatening rally attendees, transport operators receive telephone threats.

One week after a gunman entered a center for gay and lesbian youth and opened fire, killing two people and wounding 12, tens of thousands of people gathered in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on Saturday to commemorate the victims and show solidarity.

The rally was to be addressed by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, President Shimon Peres and Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, as well as family members of the victims and members of Israel's gay community.

Well respected and beloved artists were set to perform at the rally, including Yehuda Poliker, Dana International, Ivri Lider, Ninet Tayeb, Corin Alal, Keren Peles and Margalit Tzanani.

The rally was preceded by a number of threats against the gay community. Earlier Saturday, a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces' Nahal Haredi unit was arrested on suspicion that he had threatened rally organizers on an online forum.

While in custody, the soldier confessed to making the threats.

Meanwhile, operators of transportation to the Tel Aviv rally received telephone threats from an anonymous caller who warned that grenades will be hurled at attendants of the rally.

Barak Atar, the head of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) chapter in Be'er Sheva, who organized transportation from the southern city to Tel Aviv for the rally, said that "at 2 P.M. we got a call from someone asking where the pickup for the ride to the rally was. We answered him and asked if he was coming, and he said 'I'll be there - with grenades.'"

Atar filed a complaint with the police following the incident.

A similar threat was received by organizers of transportation from Haifa. According to Gal Zberger, who organized a Peace Now bus to take demonstrators from Haifa to Tel Aviv, "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.'"

Another 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 answered the caller, saying that the buses were leaving at around 6 P.M., and asked if he wanted to get a ride. In response, the caller said "I want to come to the pickup point to throw grenades at you."

The police launched an investigation into the incident, and were trying to determine the source of the calls.