Aug 2nd, 2016
Thank you for taking the time to read our letter.
A year has passed since the death our daughter, who was not yet 16, but who was full of values and ideals and goodwill and willingness to work to make this a better place. There does not seem to be enough ink in the world to describe the grief and pain which are our lot. This letter has not been written to share our pain with you, but rather to harness you to action and promoting change, which we have been a party to since the murder.
We would like to ask you to participate in educational activity aimed at reducing hate in the public sphere, the main purpose of which is to dismantle the barriers of ignorance, suspicion, hate, and fear.
It is easy to spread hate. It catches like a wildfire, fans itself, spreads and burns the good, poisons our lives, and kills our children. Hate and fear are powerful emotions that emerge and flourish with ease; the struggle against these emotions in the complex Israeli reality is hard, but essential, because they are destructive emotions that build nothing.
It is harder to instill education and values. Every parent and educator knows this. It is a long row to hoe, and when the shoots are still young, any evil blow can ruin them. Education and tolerance must be instilled at as many levels as possible – at home, in the education system, in youth movements, in the army and at work, in the public sphere, and at every other possible level.
We also see the need for such activity, because, to our regret, the murderer and his dark opinions are not alone, and it did not begin with the murder. Even before, LGBTQs had been called beasts, and the public was silent, extreme and inciting haredi posters were published on billboards and no one saw fit to stop the incitement.
Per the Berl Katznelson Foundation’s Hatred Index, 13% of the online responses to the murder expressed support for the deed. 4,500 people sat down and consciously wrote that they support the murder of our Shira. We are confident that it is a figure that must be understood to realize how important activity in this area is.
To coordinate the various activities in which we take part, we have established a public benefit company – Shira Banki’s Way. In this letter, we are seeking to raise funds to promote and develop these activities.
Current activities are:
- The Shira Banki Clinic for the Struggle against Hatred in the Public Sphere (in cooperation with the Berl Katznelson Foundation) at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. The academic course will engage in, among other topics, the legal, psychological, cultural, and social aspects of social exclusion and delegitimization of groups in society. The clinic will provide pro bono legal aid for victims of incitement and racism online and in the public sphere, and will publish position papers and proposals for legislation to advance tolerance in order to turn the struggle against racism into a broader public agenda
- Meeting Point – an initiative of the Jerusalem Movement to Commemorate Shira Banki. At 8 pm every Thursday, at Zion Square, people from Jerusalem’s various communities meet for a moderated discussion. People from various communities, with different opinions, from different generations, sit down and sometimes stand, talk and sometimes shout, laugh and, at times, rage. They talk. Our distant vision is to turn Zion Square into a place of culture and tolerance, a center that will serve as a model for common ground that allows life together.
- This Is Jerusalem – Teachers’ Lounge in commemoration of Shira Banki. The program considers educators in Jerusalem as key figures who can change the city’s future. Teachers in the multisector advanced training program undergo a personal and group self-reflective process, through teaching colleagues and self-study of the beliefs, instruction practice and educational endeavor, which touch on the ability to include and handle the city’s multiculturalism. This project is run by Hebrew Union College in cooperation with the Education Administration at the Jerusalem Municipality.
- Art as a tool for cultural change – It is held at the NGO Yad Rachel Educational and Therapeutic Centers in cooperation with the Schusterman Foundation-Israel. It is an art therapy program for children and families at risk, enabling them to better cope with life’s challenges in Israel’s complex reality – a reality reflected in part by the lack of direct channels of communication, a weakening sense of belonging, exclusion, alienation, interpersonal aggression, and (violent) regional escalation.
- Mirrors – Shira Banki Teenage Girl Mentors The program is run by the Projects Unit, Youth Advancement at the Jerusalem Municipality. This multiyear program seeks to change the social role of young women at risk. The program combines knowledge and research with the authentic and sincere experience of the young women, giving them tools to make their voices heard, influence how they are perceived by society, and offer solutions to young women in Israel.
- A Different Story – a Headstart campaign for an educational program and podcast series to promote tolerance – this is an educational program under development, which will include lectures, a series of podcasts about extraordinary figures in Israeli and global history who worked for the good of others. The series will be produced by the Excerpts of History podcast team, and will be made available to education institutions, youth movements, IDF courses, and teacher seminars. It will be accessible to everyone online.
We also periodically meet with various cadets in pre-military courses, youth movement leaders, and others.
We would appreciate your support for our activities. You can help us by sharing this letter in any way and via any media you see fit, contributing to and participating in various activities, and through donations via the following link:
Our heartfelt thanks,
Mika and Uri Banki