December 13, 2015
It’s our first Hannukah without Shira – like the first birthday without Shira, like the start of the first school year without Shira – all that we will experience this year will be the first without Shira.
When I was invited to speak tonight, one of the comments was that Shira would have been invited, if that were possible, to light the menorah, what would she have said about tolerance and curiosity and on what such a special girl has learned from life.
Our Shira accomplished a lot in her short life, including the development of feminist awareness (which she also picked up at home…). It was absolutely clear to a girl not yet 16 that it was inconceivable that anyone could dictate to her or anyone else how to walk down the street, what to wear, or what to think.
Regrettably, at the start of the 21st century, in the world, in Israel, and in Jerusalem, that clearly cannot be taken for granted.
Many people feel threatened by women and prefer the old order – in which the place of a woman was “known”, especially that it was inferior – too much.
Many hide behind the excuses of conservatism, religion, and multiculturalism.
Many others hide behind a fictitious freedom of expression and false liberalism only to exclude, suppress, and objectify women.
Today, there is great awareness and opposition to such exclusion, but it is clear to all of us that the very need for this opposition indicates the extent of the exclusion that is still present.
Shira had a critical and clear perspective about the reality of life around her. In a school paper, she referred to the fairy tales of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty – stories which are inalienable assets of childhood in the West, and which constitute, possibly without intention, part of the tracking of girls, teenagers, and women to be objectified and pretty vessels.
The critical question that Shira and her friend raised was how the love in these kinds of stories could be called “true love” if it was solely based on external appearance seen in the blink of an eye? Consequently, how it is possible that the kiss in the fairy tale is called “the kiss of true love” and that it is strong enough to break a curse if all the relationship between the two “lovers” amounts to is the prince’s looking at a woman lying unconscious before him?
It was obvious to Shira that this was unacceptable. She was an opinionated teenager who would never consent to disparagement or condescending because of her gender or appearance, and would not stay silent in the face of such attitudes towards other girls.
Shira was a young woman who would not bow her head to such acts, and would rather fight to change them by volunteering at a WIZO women’s shelter, by going to a gay pride parade, and by undertaking other activities.
At Shira’s grave, I said that I always feared she would be hurt because of her femininity, by someone who would consider her an object, not that she would be murdered as a symbol.
Shira was an active young woman who stood out, but I never though her conduct would serve as a symbol. We saw her conduct as proper and worthy. At the time, we could only pray in our hearts that everyone had such awareness and conduct.
Today, four months later, as I still refuse to believe what happened, but see the impact of the incident, I can only hope that she will indeed become an important symbol for many around us and that that symbol, as well as the lesson it teaches, will not be forgotten.
Thank you for seeing fit to remember and commemorate, and thank you for inscribing our Shira in your hearts.
We wish you all a Happy Hannukah and that we continue to emerge from the darkness to a great light.