September 8, 2015
Several weeks have gone by but the pain has not lessened.
The shock and pain may be talked about more, but are not easier.
The sense of horror in face of this pointless act, in the face of the vast black hole that has opened in our lives, leaves us stunned and wondering how we can continue to move on.
From the first moments on this sad road, we have spoken about our surprise from the intensity of the response to the incident, but, even then, we did not appreciate its scale. The incident has brought thousands of people to our threshold, people whom we had previously known and new people, public and anonymous figures, people from Israel and from around the world. The President of the State of Israel, Mr. Reuven Rivlin, met us and expressed his condolences, and Speaker of the Knesset, MK Yuli Edelstein, is present here, and we thank them for that.
We have received condolences from the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, from Israeli and foreign organizations, and from private individuals from all over the world. Our private lives – which previously appeared to be calm and good – have been turned upside down…
We could not and would not ignore this powerful impetus that emerged in the aftermath to the incident. Therefore, although the scale of today’s event and the public and even state presence are not in line with who we are, we feel that they are right and necessary in order to emphasize the fact that our Shira was murdered in the struggle for the nature of the public sphere in Israel.
That said, we feel the need to apologize to all our acquaintances, relatives, and loved ones for the fact that our private lives – and the lives of those that are intertwined with ours – now receive a public dimension at an event such as this, with the resonance to the murder also dictating, even if only in part, the nature of the event commemorating it.
Equally, we wish to thank all the people who honor us with their presence and thoughts and support at this difficult time.
In any case, it is unendurable for us to lay the headstone of our daughter who had not yet marked her 16th birthday.
Our Shira, we walked this country’s paths with you, first while telling you stories to divert your attention from the long walks, and later with you telling such stories to your brother and sisters.
Together, we skipped over boulders in the south. At every cistern we reached, you were the first to jump in. In the evenings of these trips, we would sit around a campfire. At first, all the families together, and later, you, the younger generation, would arrange your own campfire. We listened to and sang endless Israeli songs together – Chava Alberstein, Arik Einstein, Natan Alterman were your favorites, as well as many other creators and artists, including foreign music we did not always know…
And now we are putting up your headstone. It is inconceivable and unbearable. A headstone carrying the spirit of the desert, the boulders and the stones of the Negev Mountains, the cisterns, and the campfires. A headstone so full of grief and memories. How is it possible to say ‘memories’ for a girl who had not yet marked her 16th birthday?
A great many things have been said in recent weeks: about the incident, about our Shira, about the meaning of it all, about the nature of our society and of Israel, and about where we are headed.
We were not surprised by the many good things which were written about Shira. She is our daughter, one of our four wonderful children, and all is known and obvious. A headline in one of the newspapers caught our eye – Death of a Leader. We had not thought of her in such terms. She was wonderful, marvelous, special, talented, intelligent, and much more, but that conclusion, that description, we had not previously considered. Nonetheless, from the moment these words were written, they suddenly appeared to be so clear and right, so fitting to what all her friends had in fact said about her. We too have always felt in our hearts that she was a leader, but as ordinary parents, we did not seek to attach superlatives to her, because who does not think that his child is number one?
Now, as you know, it has all been overturned.
This leadership, this command, a gut knowledge of the values she believes in and by which she was raised and educated – all these cannot die with her. Furthermore, they must guide and navigate this entire great wave around us, which praises, supports, seeks meaning and change, and is not prepared to let this issue go without important activity being organized on the matter.
We are devoting considerable thought to the right way that will be proper and fitting to embark on. Commemoration, in and of itself, is a means, but not the end, and we are seeking actions, programs, and deeds which will have a reasonable chance of being achieved and have impact.
There have been bloody incidents in Israeli public history, which seemed, at the time, to have the potential to shake the very foundations of Israeli society and finally result in a courageous tackling of the intolerance and refusal to accept the other. Regrettably, it does seem to have happened, and intolerance and hate are thriving and bearing bitter fruit.
More than once, we have heard in Israel the adage that attackers do not emerge in a vacuum, and that the climate in which they act encourages them to commit their deeds. If there is truth to this adage, then the murder of our Shira was also not committed in a vacuum, but by someone who grew up, lived, and acted in a society which was unable to differentiate between disagreement and the wish for the disappearance of the other.
However, no one can wash their hands in innocence, because hatred, tribalism, and the refusal to accept the other to some degree or another is part and parcel of us all.
In our view, the significance of this is the recognition is that the public sphere must have a place for everyone. Our Shira was raised in the strong faith that that is how it should be.
A person should live by his faith and everyone should conduct themselves as they see fit in the comfort of their own home, but in the public sphere, there should be a place for each person, and everyone should respect everyone else, be considerate, be sensitive and will neither harm nor be harmed.
The tolerance everyone is talking about is the ability not just to tolerate the other, but rather a real willingness to recognize the good that he contributes to society by virtue of his very existence – the willingness to utterly waive the idea that it would be better for us if the other were to disappear.
Even if each of us sometimes prays, in the depths of his heart, that there would be many people like him in this place, our leaders and we must realize and educate that we are all here to stay – haredim, Sephardim, Ashkenazim, the national religious, the knitted kippas, the secularists, the leftists, the rightists, and all the types and kinds and classifications of humanity residing here – we are all meant to live here together and accept the good in each other. Diversity contributes to us as a society. There is no real interest, no challenge or development when everyone is identical. Differences prod us to think, to take into consideration, to act, and to develop.
Diversity helps us avoid stagnation.
It sometimes seems that there is great doubt whether we remember and know that democracy does not mean imposing the will of the majority while suppressing the minority; freedom does not merely mean shouting Viva the State of Israel, and freedom does not mean worshipping God only in a particular way.
In democracy, you accept the other in the sense of not patronizing him or believing that he is inferior to you. In a democratic country, various sectors can acknowledge their own value without hating other groups or claiming sole ownership of knowledge, wisdom, and justice.
We want to believe that racism, aloofness, and distancing yourself from the other are not intuitive behaviors, but rather an acquired flaw, which can and should be corrected.
We, Shira’s parents, as people, as Israelis, as Jews, and as secularists, are confident and at peace with all the components of our identity, and the same was true of our Shira. Our cup is definitely not empty, and we do not believe that is fuller than anyone else’s. No one needs to beg for their cup to be filled.
We are confident that many others in Israeli society feel this way, and we try and hope that we are able to respect their feelings.
If we all learn to be confident in our identity and have the inner strength to do so without this coming at the expense of another’s identity, and if we all learn that the very existence of the other does not jeopardize us and our identity, then, maybe we will find solace in the thought that our daughter did not die in vain.