TEL AVIV – An Israeli-American who organized a party for fellow Israelis at the Pulse nightclub just one week before the massacre at the popular gay venue said he was shocked at news of the attack but added that American club security was “a joke.”
“They do have security in the club, but it isn’t like in Israel,” 59-year-old Avi Alfasi said.
“You can get in through the side entrance, they don’t really check bags. Unfortunately, they are stupid. In Israel the level of security is on another level. In America it is a joke. You could say that the writing was really on the wall,” he added.
Event-planner Alfasi organized a massive party at the club to mark Gay Days at nearby Walt Disney World – one of the world’s largest gay pride events held on the first Saturday in June. The party was attended by Alfasi and a couple of dozen Israeli friends among hundreds of other revelers.
“It could be said that many Israelis were miraculously saved,” Alfasi said according to Ynet news. “I could hear a lot of Hebrew in the club.”
Alfasi, who rents an apartment opposite the nightclub, added that he had many friends who were killed in the shooting, which claimed the lives of at least 50 people.
“It is absolutely terrible that such a thing can happen in a place where people just want to be happy. It is an awful feeling that I could have been there,” he said.
He said that the nightclub is “like many places in the U.S, an easy target for terrorists.”
“They told me that the terrorist entered the club, simply stood by the doors, began shooting, and didn’t let anyone escape. Anyone who approached him was shot in cold blood.”
Alfasi believes that the tragedy will change America’s attitude toward the gay community and will almost certainly mean beefing up security protocols at LGBT hotspots.
“I, personally, will ensure that from now on there will be better security in all of the clubs, which will be properly protected,” he said. “Any weapon that someone wants to bring into the club will have to be stopped from doing so.”
Even before the Islamic State took responsibility, Rabbi Aaron Katz, an Israeli-American who lives in Miami Beach and is closely affiliated with the local gay community, said he doubted that the choice of venue was an accident.
“There are many places in America where they [are stuck in the past] when it comes to the subject of gays.” he said. “It is extremely sad, extremely bad, extremely concerning. Unfortunately racism and the hatred leads, in the end, to an attack like this.”
Rabbi Rick Sherwin of a synagogue in Orlando told the Times of Israel that he was “devastated” at the news of the attack.
“When someone attacks Jews we are all just devastated, and so we understand what it means to be a part of a minority. When one member of a community is injured we know every member is touched,” he said.
Rabbi Sherwin added that many of his congregants went to donate blood after news of the attack broke. His synagogue, Beth Am, was the first to perform same-sex marriages in the state.
Rabbi Steven Engel of Orlando’s Congregation of Reform Judaism said that his congregation was traumatized by the events of Sunday morning.
“There is a lot of shock in the congregation. We have a very big LGBT community and as of right now it’s very unclear whether anyone in our congregation was killed, hurt, or directly affected,” he said.