We were there

‘I felt sadness and dismay, but not shock’

Noam Eyal (right), a stabbing victim, and others revisit the site of last week’s pride parade attack, near the corner of the capital’s Keren Hayesod and Washington streets. (photo credit: JASON SHALTIEL)
Noam Eyal (right), a stabbing victim, and others revisit the site of last week’s pride parade attack, near the corner of the capital’s Keren Hayesod and Washington streets.
(photo credit: JASON SHALTIEL)
Amanda Kheen has lived in Israel for 18 years and never attended Jerusalem pride. But on the day of the march last week, the buses were rerouted and her commute was disrupted, “and I thought it could be fun,” she recounted, “so I joined.”
“Most of the people were just walking and talking. They chanted a few things now and again… I think a drag queen was being held on someone’s shoulders,” she said. “I was expecting to see more of that, more people in crazy outfits and things like that, but it was tamer than I expected.”
Kheen soon met up with some friends.
“We were just talking, catching up, reminiscing; all of a sudden, we heard shrieking and we turned around and saw police horses, and everyone was shouting and the cops were telling everyone to move to the side. Then, next thing I knew, I saw this guy who was definitely haredi and definitely holding a knife zoom past, and I saw the policemen tackle him to the ground.
“I also saw two of the people who were wounded bleeding on the street; there were people gathering around them,” Kheen recalled.
Her two friends, one of whom is a medical student, rushed over to the victims, and Kheen moved to the side and dialed 100 to report the emergency. (“I obviously wasn’t the first, and the ambulance was there mamash [really] within a minute.”) “At first what happened was when he ran past, I didn’t even realize what was going on,” Kheen said. “I asked my friend, is he holding a knife? And next thing I knew, she and another guy I know were running toward one of the wounded people.
“Then it hit me like, oh my gosh, something major just happened, and I started shaking… When I called 100, I barely even knew what I was saying, I just said I know there are two people here, I see them bleeding, and people were shouting at me, ‘No, there’s at least three.’ “Afterwards I started crying,” Kheen remembered. “Someone gave me a hug, someone I didn’t even know, and they offered me some water. I just went to my grandparents’ house because I didn’t really know what to do.”
FOR YISCAH SMITH, a transgender activist and writer living in Jerusalem, “It began before the actual march.”
She had just finished teaching a class across the street from the spot where, in a few minutes, the march would get under way. Smith and her students had discussed pluralism and oneness in Judaism, and outside, as people milled about, waiting for the march to begin, “I remember remarking to the students of mine and some people I know… it’s really remarkable the temperament, how everything has changed in Jerusalem compared to years ago, when it was very tense.
“There were many, many protesters. There were no other groups that were not LGBT at the march. This year there were plenty of straight groups, religious straight groups supporting diversity and plurality, everything we just learned about in the classroom across the street. It was really quite amazing.”
She recounted how Bat Kol, a religious lesbian group, was distributing small packages containing Shabbat candles with the blessing and times for lighting. She remarked to her students that just as they had discussed in class, these women were “spreading the light in the pluralistic world.”
But “no sooner did I put a period to my thoughts, then we started to hear sirens… All of a sudden, I see policemen on horses, I see policeman running. And my first instinct – I’ve been here through several wars and intifadas and terrorist attacks – my first response was that, God forbid, there was a terrorist attack, not that it was from a protester of any kind.
Because there didn’t seem to be the usual amount of protesters this year. And each year it’s been getting less and less anyway.”
People were running past her, away from the commotion, but Smith decided to move forward, “and whatever I will see, I hope it’s not too tragic.”
“And sure enough,” Smith recounted, “I heard a bunch of people saying that people were stabbed.”
As she continued walking, Smith said she felt sadness, certainly, and dismay – but not shock.
“When you live in Israel for a while, you don’t become shocked, not that God forbid one becomes insensitive, but shock is not one of the feelings. It was really sadness. And then I felt myself vacillating, I felt myself immersed in this paradox. Two minutes before this happened, I was with women who other people say live in the dark, and they’re trying to share light. And then not two minutes later, I’m around this person who claims to be living in the light who brought darkness into the world.
“That was my first immediate response. Just the contrast between the two that occurred minutes apart. And that’s what happens in Jerusalem,” Smith said, snapping her fingers. “Things happen very quickly and intensely.”
NOAM EYAL was one of the six who were stabbed during last week’s march.
“It’s pretty deep but it’s no vital organs or anything like that. It’s in the upper right back. Certain motions with my arm are just painful.
But besides that, it’s getting better really fast.”
Eyal said he was walking with friends when “all of a sudden I thought that someone was running and hitting me. He just ran and bumped into me, tackling me almost, in the shoulder. It didn’t feel like a knife or something, it took a minute or two before I started feeling pain.”
But he looked up and “I saw my friend looking at me and she was horrified, and I looked at myself and I saw the blood.
“I decided just screaming wouldn’t do any good,” he said.
Eyal, who was a combat medic in the army, realized he was breathing well enough, so his lungs were probably safe.
“So,” he remembered, “I found a Border Police officer, and I touched her back and I said, ‘Hi, I got stabbed,’ and she said, ‘What did you say?’ And I said, ‘I got stabbed. Can I get some medical help please?’”
Hundreds mourn at vigil for murdered teenager Shira Banki
Grief struck an already distraught community on Sunday with the death of Shira Banki, the 16-year-old girl who was one of six people stabbed at last week’s Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade.
Only a few hours after the announcement of Banki’s death, hundreds gathered at Jerusalem’s Zion Square to honor and remember her. It was the hottest night that Israel had seen in five years, with temperatures upwards of 30 degrees in Jerusalem during the evening. The crowd was mournful and quiet; few words were exchanged, and tears covered the faces of many attendees.
The vigil began with a video message from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who sent his condolences to Banki’s family and said their daughter “was murdered because she courageously supported the principle according to which everyone is entitled to live their lives in dignity and safety. We will not allow the abhorrent murderer to undermine the fundamental values upon which Israeli society is based.”
Korin Allal, a lesbian singer, performed “A Song for Shira,” - the closing track to Allal’s 1989 record, Antarctica - before the somber crowd at the request of the girl’s family. A large rainbow flag hung behind her, and photos of Banki were projected onto a screen as she and strummed her acoustic guitar. “Speak now girl, I hear you,” was the opening verse which rang softly through the warm Summer air that night.
Many in the crowd held candles, revealing faces filled with sorrow. Some formed their candles into heart shapes on the ground and sat around them.
Noa Yanai, 18, spent some time at Banki’s vigil comforting her friends and confiding in others.
“I didn’t know her personally, but I’ve just been nonstop hearing for the last few days what an amazing person she was,” Yanai told The Jerusalem Post, using her trembling hand to wipe tears from her face. “After these few days, I feel like I knew her, even though I’d never met her, because there’s just been an outpouring of love toward her, and appreciation.”
The Sunday night gathering was organized by the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, which provides direct services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in the capital and its surrounding communities, while advocating for equality and recognition in Israeli society at large.
Tom Channing, its director of development, stated that friends and relatives of the murdered teen could not attend the vigil; he explained that most of them were still in shock over her death.
Many members of the Open House were present, however, as were people who had found out about the vigil through social media. On the event’s Facebook page, over 2,000 people said they would be attending.
Several high-school students who were part of the Tel Aviv-based Noam youth movement came with their counselor, Yoni Avitan, to pay their respects. Avitan, wearing a kippa, expressed concern for his own well-being as a practicing Jew who happens to be gay.
“It’s hard to think about how Jewish society reacts to you,” he said. “I have my way of Judaism, and to understand that people want to hurt me or kill me just because of my identity is hard to realize.”
Banki’s attacker, Yishai Schlissel – a haredi man who had recently finished a 10-year prison term for stabbing three marchers at the 2005 Jerusalem Pride Parade – wounded five others in his rampage.
One of those five, Noam Eyal, returned to the scene of the assault on Sunday, just hours before Banki’s death was announced. Eyal wore a sling across his right arm for support as the stab in his back has since made it painful to move his arm. Speaking sternly he expressed optimism for the future and added that he expects to recover. Asked if he would attend again next year, he responded, “Yes, for sure.”