Jerusalem’s historic Zion Square, slated for a complete overhaul, is to be renamed Tolerance Square in memory of Shira Banki, the 16-year-old stabbed to death during last year’s Gay Pride parade.
Miki Banki, Shira Banki’s mother, will be part of the panel of judges helping decide which architectural plan will be used to redesign the public space, said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
Barkat said the square will be used as a place of tolerance and meeting, a place that will exemplify the values and beliefs of Banki.
The Jerusalem municipality issued a statement Monday announcing the plan.
The downtown square, located on Jaffa Road and connecting the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall with the cobblestoned Nahalat Shiva neighborhood, has been a location used for political demonstrations over the course of its 80-plus years of existence.
Last summer, after Banki was stabbed to death by Yishai Shlissel, a mentally unstable ultra-Orthodox man who had just been released from jail for a similar offense, groups of Jerusalemites, secular and religious, Jewish and Arab, sat in circles inside the paved confines of the public space to discuss and debate their society.
“It became a place of coexistence,” said Shira Katz Vinkler, CEO of the Yerushalmit Movement, a public organization active in the Jerusalem municipality and city. “After the murder there was a feeling that we need to fix this, and we understood that it had to come from coexistence between the sectors.”
The square was built during the era of the British Mandate. It was originally called Zion Circus for the Zion Cinema movie house that first stood there. Moviegoers would exit the theater and head to the cafes and coffee houses nearby, making the space a center for the city’s cultural life.
In recent years it has become a hangout for the city’s homeless and at-risk teens.