At Jerusalem pride parade, father of slain teen urges tolerance
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At Jerusalem pride parade, father of slain teen urges tolerance

A year after his daughter was killed at event, Ori Banki warns 25,000-strong march that ‘radicalization of any kind is a sure path to destruction’

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men walk past the site where Shira Banki, 16, was killed in July 2015 after she was attacked by Yishai Shlissel during the annual Gay Pride march in Jerusalem, July 21, 2016. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men walk past the site where Shira Banki, 16, was killed in July 2015 after she was attacked by Yishai Shlissel during the annual Gay Pride march in Jerusalem, July 21, 2016. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)

Shira Banki’s murder at Jerusalem’s 2015 gay pride parade should serve as a reminder of the dangers of extremism, the father of the slain teenager urged Thursday, speaking a few blocks from where his daughter was fatally stabbed by a religious extremist at last year’s event.

Ori Banki called on the tens of thousands of participants at the 15th annual parade to stand up for a more tolerant, moderate Israel.

“The lesson we have to learn from Shira’s murder is that moderation is a virtue for all of us, and that radicalization of any kind is a sure path to destruction,” he told the crowd. “Last year our daughter was killed because she believed that everyone is entitled to live their life without feeling ashamed of who they are.”

Shira Banki died of her wounds after being stabbed by an anti-gay religious extremist, Yishai Schlissel, during last year’s parade in the capital. Six other marchers were wounded in the stabbing attack.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, right, speaking to the parents of Shira Banki, who was murdered while marching in the 2015 Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, at a memorial event in Jerusalem on July 19, 2016. (Noam Feiner/Yerushalmim)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, right, speaking to the parents of Shira Banki, who was murdered while marching in the 2015 Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, at a memorial event in Jerusalem on July 19, 2016. Ori Banki is at center. (Noam Feiner/Yerushalmim)

Schlissel, who is now serving a life sentence for Banki’s murder, had been released from prison several weeks before the July 2015 attack after committing a nearly identical crime a decade earlier. Earlier on Thursday, police said that Schlissel was arrested in prison and accused of plotting together with his brother Michael Schlissel to carry out another attack at this year’s event.

Banki’s parents had called on the public to attend the parade, which was dedicated to her memory, in a show of strength against the violence that killed their daughter.

Organizers asked participants to bring flowers to place at the site on Keren Hayesod Street where Banki was killed.

Participants lay flowers at the site where Shira Banki was stabbed to death at last year's Pride Parade, during the annual parade in Jerusalem attended by more than 25,000, on July 21, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Participants lay flowers at the site where Shira Banki was stabbed to death at last year’s Pride Parade, during the annual parade in Jerusalem attended by more than 25,000, on July 21, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“Don’t let hate, ignorance and prejudice consume you. Stand up and demand your right to live in a tolerant, moderate society,” Ori Banki said Thursday.

He said that his family has been disturbed by the suggestion that “if the victim had been a member of the community, the murder would have become an internal community issue and would not have affected the public conciousness as a whole, an attitude of: ‘to us, straight people, this would never have happened.'”

Shira Banki. (Courtesy of the family)
Shira Banki. (Courtesy of the family)

“Well, it happened. And in this case, the knife was blind. It pierced one of those present without regard to their sexual orientation. It can happen to anyone,” he said.

Prime Minister Benkamin Netanyahu on Thursday paid tribute to Banki in a video message he made for the parade, calling her a “brave, talented and loved” child.

“Shira was murdered for supporting the simple idea that we are all equal. The parade today in Jerusalem is not a parade just for the LGBT community. It’s not a march just for one group…It’s a march for ‘us,’ for ‘togetherness.’ …We are all one family,” he said. “We march together in Shira’s memory, we will remember her with love and longing, we will not let others sow separation among us.”

Thursday’s march drew an estimated 25,000 participants, far more than previous years. The event was held under tight police security.

Officers arrested 30 people suspected of trying to disrupt the event, an Israel Police spokeswoman said. Two of them were in possession of knives, Luba Samri said in a statement. “The police will continue to use a firm hand and show zero tolerance toward anyone who tries to disrupt the parade in any way,” she added.

Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevi said earlier in a briefing to reporters, “There was a serious threat to those participating [in the Jerusalem pride parade].”

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