16-year-old Shira Banki who succumbed to wounds after being stabbed in Jerusalem gay pride parade attack.
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
If a sixteen-year-old Jewish girl was murdered under any other circumstances than Shira Banki was in Jerusalem last week, our reaction as a community would have been different. That her ideological killing was met by ambivalence and not simply sorrow, so soon after Tisha Be’av, reflects how unfocused we have become. Shira’s unspeakable homicide should be met with tears and not with commentary. Her death should be mourned and not disregarded or explained.
There was no announcement about young Shira’s funeral in my neighborhood, no acknowledgment of her talents gone lost. At best I sensed disinterest. At worst I heard rationale. For some, the context of young Shira’s murder became cause for ignoring it. Others seized the opportunity to assign her community blame. Missing was our lamentation. Absent was our despair. There should be no uncertainty about young Shira’s assassination, no ambiguity about her Jewish blood spilled. “All her friends have betrayed her,” said Isaiah. Disregarding young Shira’s execution is akin to condoning her death.
As Jews we are accustomed to crying. The tragedies of history familiarize us all to pain. But there is more than oppression in our hardship, more than persecution in our fate. Survival has demanded our caution. Vigilance has contributed to our alarm. Exile, it seems, has looted our affections, robbed us of our sensibility and goodwill.
Alongside our grief lies confusion. Alongside our anguish looms mistrust. Not reacting to Shira’s murder indicates cowardice, not daring. Not recoiling from her death reveals weakness, not strength.
Satan must be laughing. In our zeal to uphold morals we have neglected ethics. In our defense of principles we have abandoned ideals. When a murdered Jew evokes anything but sadness we have strayed. When compassionate ones are apathetic we have blundered.
There is a time for debate and a time for weeping. A time for protest and a time for distress. Pretending Shira’s murder did not happen will not bring decency to Jerusalem. Dishonoring Shira’s slaughter with interpretation should not make anyone feel proud.
The scandal of Shira’s death is how predictably it exposed our vulnerability, how intolerably righteous was the indignation it, in some, aroused. Instead of human kindness, an unnatural detachment prevailed that was defensive and offensive both. Anticipating bigotry, some placed their self-justifying agenda first by insisting the community was not liable for a madman.
Others terribly suggested – with words or intentional silence – the anomalous evil was not worth bemoaning. While none proposed its permissibility, few people I know were outraged. Few unambiguously shed tears. Condolences were cursory and scarce.
The circumstances of Shira’s life need not be affirmed to justify bewailing her death. Her attitudes and behavior can be questioned. Her motives can be even denounced. Grieving, however, should be unfettered by opinion, unbound by the dispassion of thought.
Tears can fall with no reason. Sobbing can happen with no remark. The event behind her homicide may be regrettable but being numb to Shira’s slaying is something worse. A sister lay bloodied in our city. A daughter fell butchered in His name.
Tolerance is the call of our times and its demand is complicated to heed or to deny.
The divine image seems more varied than we knew.
Apologies may be gratuitous for what was said before her murder but introspection is needed for what came to mind after Shira died. To imagine Shira’s death was warranted is shameless. To ignore young Shira’s death is no less a sentiment of conceit. “Detestable are the proud of heart,” said Solomon. Exile is a time of reflection, humility, doubt. In our hurry to be right we may have wronged. In our rush to not condone we have condemned.
Like orphans without fathers we know how it feels to be frightened. Like widows without husbands we know how it feels to be alone. To be forsaken is to be endowed no security. To be rejected is to be afforded no hope. Banishment is cruel. With abandonment comes unrest and uncertainty. With confusion comes fear and disgust. Like countless victims before her Shira is a casualty of exile, of the disaster that arises from instability and hate. But not everything is controversial, not everything unclear. Shira deserves regard because she did not deserve her fortune. Shira deserves our notice, if not for how she lived then for how she died. As on Tisha Be’av our trust is in our yielding. As on Tisha Be’av our prayer is in our cry.
The author is a rabbi and family therapist in Jerusalem, where he maintains a private practice working with adults and children.