The brutal murder of 16-year-old Shira Banki, stabbed at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade last Thursday, rocks the Israeli press on Monday. “A victim of baseless hatred,” reads Israel Hayom’s headline. “A victim of evil,” Yedioth Ahronoth’s headline says.
In its coverage, the Hebrew papers mourn the sweet-faced teenager with a recollection of her musical talent, while offering a eulogy through song for the girl whose name — in Hebrew — means song.
Over in Yedioth, a vigil in Jerusalem’s Zion Square for Banki is spotlighted.
“The hundreds of people who came last night to the vigil in memory of Shira Banki immediately identified with the name of the event ‘We all hurt.’ And when Korin Allal got on the stage and gave a soft performance of ‘A song for Shira,’ at the request of Banki’s parents, there was not a dry eye in the audience. The lyrics of the songs continued to echo long after the youth left the square: ‘Speak now, girl, I’m listening/The whole world is listening to your murmur/Speak, my angel, I know your voice was not always heard.'”
The paper reproduces the lyrics in full in its first pages.
On Sunday, the high school in Jerusalem that Banki attended also held a memorial, Israel Hayom reports. “Stunned students embraced one another while tearing up, and could not overcome the hard loss. Outside the school, there was a pride flag and a notice that read: ‘The Hebrew University Secondary School mourns the untimely death of Shira Banki, a tenth grade student, who was murdered by a hateful, radical man in Jerusalem. Her death compels us to accept the other, to love mankind and [defend] its freedoms.'”
Inbal Illsar, a friend of Banki’s, pens a column in Israel Hayom in memory of her friend.
“Shira was very opinionated and wouldn’t sway from her position. She was an activist and musically talented. She played classical music on the piano, and also sang in a choral ensemble… She was an exceptional person. Always generous and finding the good in everything. Optimistic and funny. I remember once we were by her house, a few girls, and I accidentally set fire to her kitchen. I thought she would be angry, but she said it was okay and that it’s no problem,” she writes.
Over in Haaretz, the paper also highlights Banki’s death, but leads its coverage with the other hate crime dominating the news — the firebomb attack in Duma which killed an 18-month-old baby and badly hurt his parents and brother.
The daily reports that investigators believe the arsonists — who remain at large — are part of an Jewish anarchist group whose aim is to topple the government.
“Unlike in the past, the understanding is that these assailants are no longer attempting to deter the government and security forces from evacuating outposts and settlements. Nowadays they have more ambitious aims, like destabilizing the country and overthrowing the government to establish a new regime to be based on halacha, Jewish law. They plan to use violence in a systematic, continuous manner irrespective of police conduct in the territories, investigators said,” it reports.
“The ideological change that was identified last year provided a new framework for attacks against Palestinians and religious institutions. According to the agencies monitoring them, the operatives present an ‘anarchist, anti-Zionist’ worldview and justify violent attacks, including ones that cause casualties, as means toward destabilizing the state, undermining Israel’s social institutions and democratic government, and advancing a revolution that would set up a new Israeli ‘kingdom’ that would operate in accordance with Jewish law.”
Meanwhile, in a column for Yedioth Ahronoth, writer Etgar Keret laments the small turnout to the anti-violence, anti-homophobia rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday responding to the Jerusalem stabbing and Duma firebombing.
“The next day the papers will write that ‘thousands of protesters showed up,’ and the word thousands will only be there to hide the huge [empty] patches in the square,” he writes. “Seasoned photographers will print photos on the front pages which will make the relatively small crowd that came seem like a huge mass. This sad attempt to beef up the protest won’t be done out of hidden political concerns but out of collective shame.”
As the papers mourn Banki, the short-story writer eulogizes Israeli political activism.
“It seems we’ve all kind of given up on the belief that we can change something here,” he continues. “The few that came looked tired… The speakers finished speaking and the people are already dispersing, but my son refuses to leave. According to his logic, a demonstration against the murder of children and stabbing of innocents should draw anyone who believes it’s not okay. He believes that in our state, there should be millions like that. Millions.”
Keret writes that his son was convinced everyone was simply running late. “‘Let’s wait a little longer,’ he says, and grabs my hand in his little one. ‘A little longer, just until those running late come.’ And the only answer I can muster is that it’s late, and that it seems that until all those who should be here come, it could be a long — a very long — while.”