Remember August’s horrific gay youth center shooting that left two dead and about a dozen injured? Fifteen-year-old Yonatan Buks certainly does, because he’s among those the bullets hit. And now he’s suing for $4 million. But who is he suing? The youth center.
In a lawsuit just filed in Tel Aviv, Buks’s family is looking for a massive payout for his nonlethal injuries from the Tel Aviv Gay and Lesbian Association, which runs the youth center the gunman — still at large — attacked. And while the gay community there can understand his rage, the center’s members and staff don’t understand why they’re going after them.
“Yonatan is very dear to us, and we understand the suit is part of the family’s way of coping,” says the center’s manager Shaul Gannon. “This boy was abandoned by the state and needs help. I can only wish him health and love from the bottom of my heart.” And Ynet quotes an unidentified member of the organization: “We understand Yonatan and his pain. It is not easy to listen to the claim, but I don’t suppose he is motivated by greed. I believe he really fears the future and feels he needs money.”
It’s hard to charge a 15-year-old victim with “greed” when his injuries remain severe and his ability to speak challenged. But the motivation of his attorney is clear: find someone to blame. “I am sure (the gay center) was full of good intentions, but when you take upon yourself such a huge responsibility, replace the parents, and take a child through an activity that holds danger it is your duty to get the parents’ approval,” says Buks’s family lawyer Eitan Peleg. “The center functioned with an ‘open door’ policy, every Saturday at the same place and the same time, and without security cameras, an alarm, call buttons, or escape routes. We have all been exposed to the homophobia that runs rampant. You can start by closing the door.”
Indeed, any building could be made more secure by outfitting the place with cameras and a locked door. But part of the center’s appeal was that anyone could come in, no questions asked. Did that make for more lax security? Sure. But some schools, run by the state, are not even equipped with such security measures. It’s hard to fault an organization committed to keeping Israel’s queer youth safe with, well, not doing so. But it’s also hard to imagine anyone there could have foreseen a maniacal gunman storming the place and opening fire.
All around, it’s an unfortunate incident, and we’re not sure whose side to take in the case. Or whether that’s even a realistic possibility.