Hundreds of people turned out at Jerusalem’s Zion Square Sunday night to attend a memorial vigil in honor of Shira Banki, who succumbed earlier in the day to wounds sustained in a stabbing attack at Jerusalem’s Gay Pride Parade last week.
Ceremonies were also held for Banki at Tel Aviv’s Meir Park and in Beersheba.
In Jerusalem, “Shira’s Song,” written for the 16-year-old victim of the attack, was played at the request of her family, according to Israeli news site Ynet.
“Who would believe that on Jerusalem’s streets, an innocent young girl, talented, which such good values and love would be killed in cold blood for nothing. Murder that’s nothing but hate,” said Sara Kala, the head of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, at the vigil.
At the Tel Aviv vigil, eleventh grader Erel David 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,” he told the Ynet news site.
“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.”
At the same time, Education Minister Naftali Bennett arrived at the Leyada school, where Banki studied, as several of her classmates gathered to meet with counselors and social workers.
Banki was “murdered because of radicalism that raised its head,” Bennett said at the school. “Because we don’t know how to accept the other. Students in Israel need first of all to know: Don’t be afraid to be who you are and what you are,” he said, according to Ynet.
Banki was one of six people stabbed at the parade by ultra-Orthodox terrorist Yishai Schlissel, who had just been released from prison after serving 10 years in jail for carrying out a similar attack at the 2005 Pride parade in the capital.
“Our wonderful Shira was murdered because of the fact that she was a happy 16-year-old girl, full of life and love, who came to support the rights of her friends and every person to live in their own way,” Banki’s family members said in a statement. “For no reason, and because of the wickedness of stupidity and carelessness, our precious flower’s life was cut.”
Nadav Harobi, who tutored Banki, spoke of the teen’s vigor for volunteer work and social activism.
“I will remember her all my life,” Harobi told the Ynet news site. “She was a smart girl, critical in the best sense of the word. She was sharp, she volunteered a lot in her life. She was active and rose against any discrimination. She was a person who liked to live, cheerful, caring. This is an immense loss for Shira’s good friends, as well as for me.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his condolences to the Banki family and condemned attitudes of violence and hatred.
“Shira was murdered because she supported with determination the principle that says everyone is entitled to live their life with dignity and security,” he said.
“We won’t allow the loathsome murderer to undermine the basic values upon which Israeli society is founded,” the prime minister pledged. “We condemn with disgust the attempt to impose hatred and violence in our midst, and we will work to bring the killer to justice.”
Earlier, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein announced that parliament will return from recess later this week to debate the recent deadly Jewish hate crime attacks at the Jerusalem Gay Pride event and on a Palestinian family in a West Bank village.
Both attacks were stridently condemned across Israel and internationally, and led to widespread soul-searching in Israeli society.
Rallies in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and elsewhere — to protest the violence — brought tens of thousands to the streets over the weekend.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also expressed his condolences to the Banki family and promised to continue supporting and promoting freedom of expression in the capital.
“The murder at the Gay Pride parade in the streets of Jerusalem is a criminal act, and we won’t let it achieve its objective,” he said in a statement. “We’ll continue to allow complete free expression in the city for everyone, continue to support all the groups and communities in the city and the Open House [an LGBT organization].”