Film project in memory of murdered Rehovot teen aims to prevent violence

Eight months after Ma'ayan Sapir, a 15-year-old high-school student, was raped and murdered in Rehovot, her mother Sara hopes that a new project against youth violence will help save the lives of other youngsters. The project, initiated by the Sapir family and the Rehovot Municipality and supported by the Anti-Drug Authority and other bodies, revolves around a film competition for Rehovot schoolchildren of all ages. Participants will submit a 15-minute film in any genre on the subject of preventing violence and fighting drugs and alcohol. The films will be used as part of an educational and counseling campaign in schools beginning next September. The films, which will be produced with professional help, will also be screened on local television. "On a personal level, it was very important for me to commemorate Ma'ayan," Sara Sapir told The Jerusalem Post. "But beyond that, I always educated my children to say no to violence, and I believe that unless we manage to change the thought and behavior patterns of today's adolescents, tomorrow's parents will have to cope with things that will be no less terrible that the ones we are coping with now as a family." "Ma'ayan always said she wanted to be famous, even though of course she never dreamed it would happen in such circumstances," she said. "She was always interested in music, film and art, so when the municipality turned to me with this idea, I was more than eager to support it." Since Ma'ayan's murder, her mother has appeared dozens of times in front of teenage audiences in schools, talking to them about her family's personal tragedy and encouraging them to take responsibility for stemming the growing wave of violence in the country. "It requires tremendous amounts of energy for me to gather myself up when I leave after each lecture," Sapir said. "But I believe in the direct connection with teenagers, in telling them about my pain, and explain to them that our fears for them as parents are real. I think if young people go out to the streets and talk about their fear of violence, it will be more effective than my shouting about our fear as parents on television." Sapir said she hoped her conversations with teenagers could help prevent young people from engaging in violent behavior themselves - to realize, for instance, that a pocket knife carried around for self-protection could end up being used impulsively to hurt another person. "I call upon adolescents not to be apathetic, and to take responsibility for their lives, to take a stance, while engaging in different forms of social action," Sapir said. "Nobody should have to experience what my family is experiencing."