Two days, two murders. In one, I am part of the oppressed, and in the other, part of the oppressor. Both were done in the name of god, and I wonder what kind of god the perpetrators believe in.
Thursday, I am not at Jerusalem pride, because I have a friend’s bachelorette party. I’m in the car when I get the news that there has been a stabbing at the Jerusalem Pride parade. I open my group messages and find out that all my friends seem to be okay. I go between feelings of horror that this has happened again and relief that it’s nobody I know. An hour later, my phone tells me that the assailant is the same person who committed the stabbings at Jerusalem pride ten years prior, in 2005. He was out of prison for only three weeks, and police did not check his whereabouts before or during the parade. I will not write his name because it does not deserve to be remembered.
My straight friends react with surprise when I deliver the news, but then return to their previous conversations. I get to the party with little will to celebrate but decide to put on a happy face for my almost-married-friend. I go to sleep wishing I was in Jerusalem but also happy to be able to escape that reality for just a few more hours.
Friday feels like a continuation of the previous’ nights events. An 18 month Palestinian toddler, Ali Dawabsha, was burned to death overnight in a ‘price tag’ attack by Jewish Extremists in the West Bank. Price tag attacks are crimes committed against Palestinian by Jewish extremists, usually in the form of Arson. I read the words on my phone and I think “not again, not in my name.” Except, it is in my name because these extremists are committing these crimes in the name of the Jewish state, and I am Jewish, and this is my state.
Just like the night before, politicians are quick to condemn the act, saying these extremists are just two needles in what is an otherwise very gentle haystack. And while they are nice words, they are also wrong, because these attacks are just two that have come out of our racist and homophobic policies, religious teachings and culture.
In fact, I find few politicians whose words I agree with, because they use the word “shocked”, and that is the only reaction I am yet to have.
It’s hard to feel shocked when Lahava, a fascist and anti-miscegenation group in Israel is protesting only hundreds of meters from the pride parade, saying we are an abomination. It’s hard to feel stunned when not a single conviction has been made in any of the 15 price tag arson attacks in the occupied Palestinian territory since 2008. It’s hard to feel astonished when the Jewish home Party campaigned on not allowing full right for same sex couples. It’s hard to feel surprised when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Election Day that all Jews must go vote because the “Arab voters are coming in droves to the ballot boxes”, which apparently is a threat to Jewish sovereignty. It’s hard to feel shock when so many of the laws in this country are built on some of us being valued more than others.
Friday night, we go out in Tel Aviv, even though it seemed to be most of the vibrant queer community stayed home in mourning. On the way back, my girlfriend bursts into tears. She’s still somewhat new in the country, being back only for a year after leaving when she was seven. I can tell these events, especially the arson attack, have taken a toll on her. I haven’t been able to cry yet and so I let her do it for the both of us as I hug her. I want to tell her that awful events such as these can bring about positive change, as they force us to face the embodiment of our collective, insidious prejudice. I know they can, but in the moment, it’s hard to feel as though they will.
By the time Saturday rolls around, the anger has grown. Protests have been planned in every major city to mark both events. Ironically, there was always going to be an event at the Tel Aviv LGBT Center that night to mark the six year anniversary of the murders at the barnoar, an LGBT youth bar (Which I volunteered at for many years). In 2009, a masked gunman entered the bar, killing Nir Katz and Liz Trubeshi, and wounding over a dozen. The events at pride ripped open a wound not fully closed by those murders, and commemorating all of these events on one night felt ironic, but not in the Alanis Morrisette way. I don’t join the thousands of people there, because I am not ready to face these newly created scars our community just received.
Sunday is supposed to be better, and for most of the day, it is. At work, we talk about all that transpired over the weekend. We all agree we weren’t shocked, but that we feel pained by the events nonetheless. I want to put down my thoughts on paper, but there are so many and I find myself incapable of writing.
When I get home, my girlfriend is on the couch. She looks up at me and asks me if I had heard?
“One of the people stabbed at pride succumbed to her wounds. She was 16.”
And then, three days in, I am shocked. I knew someone was in critical condition, but, honestly, I just assumed she’d be okay. It wasn’t that there were reports of her situation improving, but that I just couldn’t imagine another person being killed due baseless hatred. But six years after the murder at the barnoar and two days after the price tag attack in the West Bank, Shira Banki became the latest victim to die as a result of prejudice, fanaticism and a culture of violence.
This was the moment I break down. I’m crying for Shira and for Ali, for the people who loved them, for our community and our society. A lot of things happen here, but this one feels fundamentally different in that we will either make real, positive change, or we will institutionalize the fact that blind hatred, even murder, is acceptable in our society.
People gather to memorialize Shira at the LGBT Center. A religious LGBT group asks to lead a small ceremony in her honor. Considering this crime was done in the name of god, I feel a little better knowing that the religious community is here to reclaim their faith and their version of Judaism. When I light a candle, I think about where we go to from here, both as the LGBT community and as Israelis. I don’t have an answer, but I know that my commitment to fighting injustice has again been strengthened, as both part of the oppressed and oppressive groups.