Grief, Sorrow and the Legacy of Shira Banki: the Courage to be Decent –by Ayala Emmett

Today, Monday August 3 is marked by the unthinkable grief of the bereaved parents of Shira Banki and the sorrow of her family and friends who mourn an amazingly brave 16 year old who had the courage to be a decent human being and was stabbed at the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem. Today is Shira Banki’s funeral in a private ceremony in Kibbutz Nahshon.

Her family shared a heartbreaking message: “Our magical Shira was murdered because she was a happy 16-year-old – full of life and love – who came to express her support for her friends’ rights to live as they choose. For no good reason and because of evil, stupidity and negligence, the life of our beautiful flower was cut short. Bad things happen to good people, and a very bad thing happened to our amazing girl. The family expresses hope for less hatred and more tolerance.”

It is hard for people to do what the 16 year old brave Shira did, she stood up for decency when the public atmosphere has been menacing and terrifying, life threatening.

Don’t take my word for her incredible courage. At the Tel Aviv memorial vigil for Shira, eleventh grader Erel David, according to Ynet news site, expressed shock over the murder, and voiced his fears as a gay teenager living in Israel. “Overall, we feel confident as youth in Israel their own, but when it comes to you, when it’s someone my age, who was born in the same year I was born and prepared for army service and life, and was then stabbed in the back and left bleeding on the road at the pride parade where a million police officers were standing, you basically lose that sense of security.”

Ered, like Israel’s President Rivlin, is asking: “How could this happen in our capital city? In a state that is democratic and free despite all its problems? I was scared to death.”

Shira Banki’s death exposes the fact that the street can turn into bigoted violent hatred because those in power are allowing it to happen despite their latest sanctimonious statements of how Shira’s killer will not go unpunished.

Don’t take my word on the leadership hypocrisy after the fact. Here is the statement of the inexcusable negligence/indifference of those whose duty it is to protect people from violence. It was made by no other than Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, a Likud Member of Knesset. He said, according to Haaretz, that the fatal stabbing of Shira Banki at the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem could have been prevented. The Jerusalem police, according to Minister Erdan, had the information that Shira’s killer, who was in prison for 10 years for a similar attack in 2005, was out of prison. The police were notified that he was released from prison three weeks before the stabbing attack yet he was not under surveillance. The police were instructed to watch for ultra-Orthodox men and “despite the warnings, and as seen on security cameras at the scene, [the killer] managed to get through all the security measures on site without being approached even once.”

Erdan also said, according to Haaretz, that the other attack on the Palestinian Dawabsha family and the death of baby Ali was carried out by “religious anarchist extremists who believe country’s laws and sovereignty do not apply to them.” The minister would have us believe that the problem is just a few [religious] bad apples [none secular extremists?]. But Gilad Erdan is a member of this government and he fails to tell us what actions the government has taken all along to apprehend these anarchist extremists. Or is the case that both attacks, in Duma and in Jerusalem, took place because the very leadership of this government, under cover and openly has been aiding bigoted hatred or at best has done little to deal with it. The question for Minister Erdan is what he is going to do about what Israel’s President Rivlin called a public atmosphere gripped by bigoted violence and murder.

Shira Banki 16 years of age so young and already courageous, compassionate and caring will not be able to follow the plans of her life, the promise of her talents, the fulfillment of her desires and the various potentials that she possessed. May she be remembered for her courage, her decency, her sense of justice and her passion for human dignity. This is the legacy of Shira Banki.