August 3, 2015

When a Show of Unity Ends in Tragedy: The Death of Shira Banki.

Jonathan Klinger/ Flickr

On July 30th, 16-year-old student Shira Banki took part in Jerusalem’s Gay Pride Parade in a show of solidarity with her LGBT friends.

Unexpected violence marred the peaceful day when 39-year-old Yishai Schlissel attacked the crowd in a stabbing rampage. In all, six people—including Shira—were injured.

On Sunday, her parents released a statement that Shira had died as a result of her injuries.

This was not the first time that the alleged attacker had been in trouble with the law.

Indeed, three weeks before the attacks Schlissel had been released from prison after serving 10 years of a 12-year sentence for a 2005 stabbing attack, which also occurred at the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade.

In the weeks leading up to this most recent attack, he supposedly distributed a handwritten manifesto calling the event  “shameful” and “blasphemous” and suggested that he intended to engage in another hate crime.

Police are also questioning an unnamed rabbi and his wife who supposedly shared his extremist views.

While many are blaming law enforcement, suggesting they dropped the ball by not monitoring Schlissel following his release, for me the bigger question for me is this: How do we prevent tragedies like this from happening in the first place? Or, what lesson can we take away so that Shira Banki’s death was not in vain.

It’s hard to know exactly what causes people like Yishai Schlissel or Dylann Roof to hate. One thing is certain: When people hate to the point of actually picking up weapons and harming people, they are usually past the point of return. While there have been cases of people serving lengthy sentences for hate crimes and claiming to have repented, sadly it is usually too late for them to turn their lives around and make a major difference in the world.

That waste of their lives—along with the loss of innocent bystanders like Banki—leaves no winners.

In the weeks and months ahead, it’s almost certain the media will be full of stories about Schlissel—including those examining his early life, family background and links to other people or organizations that share his extremist views. While that may be inevitable, and indeed, one could argue that it is the job of the media to report such things, I hope we do not forget Shira Banki and the other five people who suffered injuries.

In a statement released announcing Shira’s death and the plans to donate her organs, her parents also said:

“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 a less hatred and more tolerance.”

As a mother and fellow human being, I also hope for less hatred and more tolerance.

Hoping is not enough. As we mourn the death of Shira, the victims in Charleston and victims of hate crimes everywhere, let’s strive to make it a reality.


Author: Kimberly Lo

Editor: Toby Israel

Photo: Jonathan Klinger/Flickr

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