Hundreds of people gathered near the gay and lesbian youth center in Tel Aviv Sunday afternoon to protest Saturday night's shooting spree at
the site, which left two people dead and 10 injured.
More demonstrators rallied at central Jerusalem's Zion Square and in the southern city of Beersheba.
Protestors in Tel Aviv carried signs reading "All of us together with no hate or fear".
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) told those on hand "I came here to show my support for those who live in the proud gay community and are grieving over their dead. I hope that this terrible day will also give you strength and mark a turning point. This day should give children the strength to tell their parents 'I'm gay'. This day should give parents the strength to love their children for who they are. This day should give the strength to make a change within Israeli society, so that it will be proud of its gay community.
"This is also a day of soul-searching for the country's leadership – have we done enough to prevent prejudice and incitement?" said Livni.
Knesset Member Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) said, "A man doesn’t just get up one day and shoot for no reason. Someone influenced him," while gay lawmaker Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) added, "The heart refuses to accept what occurred just 50 meters from here in that humble basement apartment. Whatever the shooter's motives were, this was a hate crime."
MK Yuli Tamir, also of Labor, told the rally in Tel Aviv "The education system cannot deny the severe problems members of the gay community suffer from. I believe that a statement will come from this pain. Our society should be based on one rule: We are all equal."
'Shooter targeted entire community.' Rally in Tel Aviv (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Dana Olmert, daughter of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert,
told Ynet that "the shots were aimed at an entire community, not a specific person. Hate crimes are social crimes, and we must remember that we live in a society that is still homophobic society.
"The education system uses the word 'homo' in a derogatory way. The real test is not the rage of the protest but the daily routine. A major change within society is required," she said.
Twenty-eight-year-old Nami Besser of the "Ha'Noar Ha'Oved Ve Ha'Lomed (Working and Studying Youth), who attended the rally along with 40 other members of her movement said, "We came here spontaneously from all across the country.
"I don’t need to be a lesbian to be shocked by what happened here. This is a free country that values all people equally. We must encourage people to feel comfortable about who they love. This murder goes against everything we believe in," she said.
Yonatan Gher, director of Jerusalem's Open House Pride and Tolerance Organization, told Ynet during the protest in the capital "ahead of every gay pride parade here people ask us why insist on holding it in Jerusalem and not in Tel Aviv. Yesterday's incident proves that no place is safe. We are all part of Israeli society, and this violence endangers us all. It all comes from the same place."
Some 300 people took part in the Jerusalem demonstration, and 200 more attended the rally in Beersheba.
Ronen Medzini contributed to the report