'People hurled stones at my house for three months': survey shows sharp rise in anti-LGBT+ violence amid war

Association for LGBT+ Equality in Israel report shows 127% rise in reports of physical violence against community members in 2023

Hadar Gil-Ad|
A report published on Wednesday by the ‎the Association for LGBT+ Equality in Israel (the Aguda)‎ paints a troubling picture of the issue in Israel over the past year with a 127% rise in reported violent incidents against LGBT+ individuals. The data indicates a significant increase in incidents against the LGBT community, including physical and verbal violence, as well as property damage.
"This has been the most homophobic year in the country's history, with hundreds of cases of violence, assaults, and threats against LGBT+ individuals solely because of their identity," said Yael Sinai Biblash, head of the Aguda.
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מצעד הגאווה בירושלים
מצעד הגאווה בירושלים
Jerusalem Pride Parade
(Photo: Reuters)
"We can clearly see how inciting statements from ministers and Knesset members have turned into violence on the streets, undermining a safe space for all of us. The data presents a worrying picture that LGBT+ people are experiencing violence during wartime but are left to deal with it alone,” she added.
According to the data presented in the report, 2023 saw a 93% increase in violent incidents compared to 2022 (259 reports in 2023 compared to 134 in 2022) - a 2.4-fold increase in reports of homophobic incidents in public spaces from the total reports that year.
A breakdown of the incidents in public spaces shows a 127% increase in physical violence (118 in 2023 compared to 52 reports in 2022), a 76% increase in property damage, and a 53% increase in extortion and threats (23).
The Aguda explained, "In the past year, a divisive, homophobic, and inciteful discourse began among government officials and public speakers, with its effects spilling over into the daily lives of LGBT+ people, legitimizing individuals to act violently against them."
Among those who experienced the significant rise in violence against LGBT+ individuals are Asaf Rosenberg and his partner Sid. "This past summer, we were walking in Tel Aviv, waiting outside a friend's house, when a group of teenagers passed by us and asked, 'Are you gay?'" he recounted.
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אסף רוזנברג ובן זוגו סיד
אסף רוזנברג ובן זוגו סיד
Sid and his partner Asaf Rosenberg
"We just kept talking to each other and tried to ignore them. They kept following us, asking, 'Are you gay?' and before I knew it, one of them sprayed pepper spray in my face. I felt a terrible burning in my eyes; I couldn't open them. Sid was also affected. They disappeared before we knew what was happening. It was scary; I couldn't open my eyes for an hour, and didn’t know what I was sprayed with."
The two reported the incident to the police. "They arrived, questioned us, and a few days later, called us to the station for further questioning. But after a few months, they informed us that the case was closed because they couldn't find the assailants. It was a very unpleasant and humiliating experience," he said.

Rise in homophobia amid war

As part of a national survey by the Israeli Institute for Gender and LGBT conducted during the war in Gaza which included input from 1,002 respondents identifying as LGBT+ aged 16 and older, it was found that 46% reported feeling uncomfortable as LGBT+ in their current place of residence. This mainly concerns those whose place of residence changed due to the war.
According to the report’s data, a significant decrease in reports to the Aguda’s call center began after October 7. "The gap between the exposure rate to homophobia during the war and the decrease in active reporting to the association indicates that LGBT+ individuals are experiencing more homophobia during the war but, in the shadow of a national emergency, are left to deal with it alone and aren’t reporting it or seeking help.
“This could be due to a lack of social legitimacy or personal guilt about addressing their LGBT+ identity during a national emergency where all segments of Israeli society are hurt and suffering," the Aguda explained.
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מצעד הגאווה במצפה רמון
מצעד הגאווה במצפה רמון
Pride Parade in southern Israel
(Photo: Roy Edan)
The "LGBT During War" survey highlighted several key trends in the types of homophobia respondents experienced. These include mocking and offensive portrayals of LGBT+ individuals in public discourse, particularly hurtful comments toward transgender people, labeling community members as "Hamas supporters," homophobia in social interactions during mandatory and reserve military service (such as insults like "gay" and "tranny"), and hostility toward LGBT+ individuals both in Israel and abroad (including homophobic speech against the global LGBT+ community amid anti-Israel sentiment).
The survey revealed a significant majority of the LGBT+ community (59%) actively participated in civilian volunteer initiatives during the war. Additionally, many LGBT+ individuals were called up for reserve duty: 28% of men aged 21 to 40 served or are serving in the reserves, with 34% of those in relationships both being enlisted.
The report shows that transgender individuals report a very high rate of homophobic incidents relative to their proportion in the LGBT+ population. While transgender people are estimated to make up about 15% of the LGBT+ community, they account for 54% of the reported incidents.
Some 14% of the cases reported by transgender people in 2023 involved transphobic incidents in businesses, a figure that doubled from the previous year (7% in 2022). Other increases were seen in reports of transphobia in public institutions, with 11% in 2023 compared to 8% in 2022, and a sevenfold increase in reports of transphobia involving the police and prison services (7% in 2023 compared to 1% in 2022).
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דודו אדרעי
דודו אדרעי
Dudu Adrei
Additionally, the report highlighted that harm to transgender children was significantly higher compared to the overall LGBT+ community, with 19% of incidents involving transgender individuals in 2023 affecting minors under 18.

'Feels like persecution'

"People hurled stones at my house for three months," recalled Dudu Adrei, whose stage name is "Miss Cherry." "We were rehearsing for a show, and a group of three teenagers heard us, and started throwing stones at us from then forward. It continued for three months until they hit the home of the elderly woman downstairs, and then I decided to move."
"It feels like persecution," he added. "It wasn't like this until horrible voices from the Knesset about the LGBT+ community began sounding, saying we were worse than Hamas. This violence has been made worse since the war, and people don't report it. I hear a lot about incidents not being reported within the community because they feel like they ‘shouldn’t bother security forces right now.’”
Despite the increase seen in cases seen from the data, a survey by the Israeli Institute for Gender and LGBT in collaboration with the Israeli Biorepository Network for Research shows an improvement in public perception of the LGBT+ community.
A survey held in January 2024 presents data on public attitudes toward the LGBT+ community after the war began, with 74.4% believing that the LGBT+ community should receive full equal rights.
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יעל סיני ביבלש
יעל סיני ביבלש
Yael Sinai Biblash
(Photo: Lior Horesh)
"The current political processes, alongside the war and its emerging effects on the LGTB+ community, suggest our struggle will be even more challenging in the coming year," Sinai Biblash said.
"The rise of extremist elements within the government and a war that exposes the disparities in civil rights versus obligations among the community requires us to stay vigilant to protect the rights we've fought so hard to achieve, as well as those we have yet to secure,” she added.
“The past year has clearly proven that the LGBT+ community is an integral and significant part of Israeli society. We still have a long way to go to achieve full social, employment, and civil equality, and we won’t stop until we have them."
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