President & First Lady Rivlin on Sunday hosted at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem the family of Shira Banki, along with representatives of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (JOH), ahead of the gay pride march scheduled for next week, which marks a year since Shira was murdered in the same march.
“Shira was murdered for the freedom of every woman and man to express themselves and their sexuality freely,” said the President and continued, “The right of every man and woman to be who they are, to love as their heart desires, love that can be expressed openly. We must promote a safe public space in which even if there is disagreement, there is respect for each and every person. We must differentiate between disagreement and violent, hurtful, and destructive dialogue that at times also incites hatred.”
The President stressed, “We must end the incitement against the LGBT community, and any support that such views receive. I must say that the statements heard from the mouths of rabbis, leaders, and faith leaders have pained me greatly. I want to reiterate and remind everyone, that ‘Beloved is man created in God’s image’, any person, regardless of religion, race, or sex.” He added, “I am certain that the rabbis whom so many pupils look up to — some of them members of the LGBT community themselves — will also find a way to clarify that they don’t think otherwise.”
He continued, “Since Shira’s murder, I have initiated meetings between secular and ultra-Orthodox, right and left, men and women, so they will get to know one another, and come together united to learn, pray, and work in partnership in Shira’s memory. Political or religious differences, or differences in sexuality do not justify violence an incitement. This is not our way, not the way of Israeli society. We still have much work to do. Shira’s murder and the horrific terror attack in Orlando show that there needs to be a true effort to teach tolerance, and that a great struggle still lies before us. I congratulate the representatives of Open House for their work on behalf of the LGBTQ community, for an egalitarian, inclusive and tolerant discourse in Israel.”
Uri, Shira’s father, thanked the President for the meeting: “Such a clear, strong, firm, and public official statement calling for moderation, tolerance, and acceptance of others is something that the State of Israel needs today maybe more than anything. This is not a simple statement and it has a price as we have seen from time to time. It is a statement lacking in many places, and the words coming from this house are clear and consistent. For this our thanks go to the President and his office.”
The President responded, “Nechama and I are simply representing Shira.”