Culture and Sports Minister and Chairman of the Committee for Symbols and Ceremonies Chili Tropper announced Monday the selection of some of the torch lighters at the 74th Independence Day ceremony to be held next month on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
The chosen torch lighters are the founder of Shalva, Kalman Samuels, the parents of the late Shira Banki and the founders of "Derech Shira Banki," Mika and Uri Banki, chairwoman of the State Corporation - Ethiopian Jewish Heritage Center, Dr. Simcha Gethon, and chairman of the IDF disabled veterans organization, Idan Kleiman.
Concerning Kalman Samuels, founder of Shalva, the selection committee stated: "Kalman and Malki's enterprise has become a magnet for people from all over the country and the world, as well as establishing Israel and Jerusalem as a center that advocates inclusion and concern for human dignity. The hundreds of young volunteers in the association represent a young generation and the values dedicated to grace and giving. With their brightness and endless dedication, Kalman and Malkei give great hope to many families in Israel, and promote a society that accepts every person wherever he is."
Tropper added: "Kalman Samuels and his wife Malki are benefactors of community charity for those who need its help. From their personal experience, they have chosen to reach out to thousands more and provide people with disabilities a respectful, fair and equal place in Israeli society."
Concerning Mika and Uri Banki, the selection committee stated: "In the summer of 2015, during the Pride Parade in Jerusalem, the 15-year-old girl, the late Shira Banki, was murdered. Shira came to the parade, to support her friends, the members of the LGBTQ+ community. Out of the immense pain that befell them, her mother Mika and her father Uri chose to harness Israeli society for activities of action and educational-value change in order to promote tolerance and acceptance of the other in the public sphere in Israel. They founded Derech Shira Banki, an organization that inevitably holds out hope that the sane and silent majority, who raised their voices in the wake of Shira's assassination, will find strength and build a more moderate and healthier society."
Tropper added: "Mika and Uri Banki, have been working tirelessly since their daughter Shira, may her memory be a blessing, was murdered in the Pride Parade, to promote tolerance and partnership. In the eulogy over her grave, they said: 'We will try to hate less and love more, and so we will offer to all of you' and since then they turn their strength and heart to connect different groups in Israeli society. Many talk about unity. Mika and Uri Banki create unity. I wish we could all hate less and love more."
Concerning Dr. Simcha Gethon, the selection committee stated: "Dr. Simcha Gethon, a resident of Holon, is the chairwoman of the State Corporation - Ethiopian Jewish Heritage Center, one of the founders of the "Elem" association to assist at-risk youth and a lecturer in education in academia. Dr. Gethon was born in Ethiopia and immigrated to Israel in her youth. The sense of belonging and commitment to the community led her to act resolutely to promote and integrate vulnerable and excluded populations into Israeli society."
Tropper added: "Simcha is a leader in education and society and is a symbol for many of the immigrants from Ethiopia. It is her academic work alongside her social work that make her a role model."
Concerning Idan Kleiman, the selection committee stated: "Kleiman, a native of Jerusalem and a resident of Tel Aviv, is the chairman of the IDF disabled veterans organization and served as a soldier in the Givati Brigade in the Lebanese front and in the Gaza Strip. During an encounter with a squad of terrorists in Khan Yunis, bullets penetrated his chest. He was critically wounded and remained confined to a wheelchair. During the long rehabilitation process, he encountered for the first time the difficulties of wounded soldiers, many of whom the system was unable to respond to. Despite the difficulties he has faced since his injury, Kleiman decided to dedicate himself and dedicate his strengths and abilities in order to create an equal society, in which disabled soldiers will integrate and receive both recognition from the state and the treatment they deserve."
Tropper added: "Idan Kleiman, who was critically wounded as a soldier in Gaza and has since undergone a lengthy rehabilitation process, chose to dedicate his life to the wounded and disabled of the IDF. Idan became an address for many and with a big heart he came to their aid. In the past year he has also been a partner in promoting the revolutionary 'One Soul' program, which leads to a change in the state's attitude toward those who fought for it and paid a price for it. Disabled IDF personnel deserve respect from the state that sent them to battle."