Uri Banki – Speech at the President’s House, June 13, 2017
I would like to thank the President of Israel and his wife for their hospitality, and for the distinguished accommodation of our mutual project. Thank you for being here today.
A short while after Shira was murdered, it was revealed that at least 4,500 people thought that murdering my daughter, not yet celebrating her sweet-sixteenth, just because she participated in the gay parade was a good idea.
More people thought that murdering Shira was a milestone in the escalating violence that characterizes great parts of the concourse between publics in Israel.
Shira was not murdered by one lunatic, but by a thought-out murderer with many followers. The same murderer that served ten years in prison for an attempted murder – at the same place, and the same parade.
During those ten years, he wasn’t banished, but instead enjoyed a great deal of support and a surprising forgiveness from different groups. In 2011, during his sentence, a certain website published a video under the title “Rabbi Yishai Schlissel Shlita (may he live a long good life) stabbing gays at the disease parade.” Members of the Kneset (Israeli parliament) acted on his behalf, a non-governmental organization defended him, and when his sentence ended – there ware those who hoped for his release – he was found worthy of public speaking; people came to hear his message.
The situation worsened after the murder, when it was clear beyond doubt who the murderer was, what he stood for, and what the horrible outcome of his actions was. If you wish, google his name just as I did just before coming here, and you will easily find posts supporting the murder. For example, only four days after the murder, someone wrote “if there had been ten more like him, I guarantee that there would be no more gay parades in Jerusalem.”
A society that has thousands of supporters of a murder such as Shira’s – is a conflicted society.
I recognize the fact that we don’t think alike, but in a democratic society that should never become a problem. We all must realize that our opinion is merely one of many, and there is no worthier place to carry this message to the Israeli society than here, the President’s House. We must say this out loud and clear, and to everyone in our society – sometimes we belong to the majority, and sometimes we belong to the minority, but no matter where we are at – we must learn how to handle different opinions through mutual respect. While we agree to disagree, one thing must always remain undisputed to all: using violence of any kind in order to impose our opinion while suppressing others’ is never an option in the State of Israel.
The idea of a project that would bring together different sectors of our society, and that would represent various controversies that split the Israeli society stemmed from the notion that we must learn how to manage conflicts. The mission of this project is to teach, experience, and show that there is another way – that it is possible to manage a controversy and survive.
Allow me to finish on a person note. In a few moments you will hear Mr. David Hatuel whose wife and four daughters were murdered in 2004. As fate would have it, thirty years ago David and I served together at the same paratrooper unit, a combination of half Hesder (yeshiva) soldiers and half regular soldiers. Seemingly, we came from different worlds, but our mutual service – despite quite a few disagreements – was never about hatred. We were able to see the person and the friend behind the dog tag, and never once did it occurred to us to include violence in our dialog.
Hopefully, we will succeed in inheriting this way to others.
Good luck to us all, and thank you.
Reuven Rivlin, President of Israel – Speech at the Launching of the Banki-Rabin-Katif Project, June 13, 2017
I am standing here, at the end of this event, and I feel as if we are taking part of a rare moment in history. There is a form of Japanese art called Kintsugi that involved repairing broken or shattered pottery using powdered gold or lacquer. This art of putting pieces together stems from the belief that the breaks are a part of the history of the object, and that the repair enhances, rather than disguises, their existence. This way, the object will become more beautiful than its original form.
The Israeli society is a broken pottery, and we all represent its pieces. But tonight, three fractions represent the foundation of an unusual cooperation. Those three should have been experienced by the entire Israeli society; they should have opened a dialog – long, painful, real – but instead became the fractions of one sector or another. Fractions that contributed to suspicion and withdrawal.
And now you come, with your delicate brushes and your powdered gold: Shira Banki Way, Yizhak Rabin Center, and Katif Center and say “let us repair together.” Without conflict and without denying the shattered pieces. Let us repair together. Let us open a real discussion that requires a truthful understanding of each fraction; that requires a realistic and critic approach; and that requires its participants to be within things, even through painful moments – even through disagreements. Let us repair together for it is our society. For it is our land. And we don’t have, none of us have, another land.
I am certain this wasn’t easy for you, and that the initial decision to join paths was not be simple. Each of the institutions mentioned is strictly identified with a specific section of the Israeli society. You each have your own path, your own moral spine, and your own red lines. But now you face the fact that a real repair will never be completed by each of you promoting your way only. Your consent to recognize your need of a repairing process, each separately and all of you together, is a bare step.
There will be many obstacles down the road, some more difficult than others, but by joining paths for your first year, and the fact that you completed a year together, you proved that it is possible.
Dear friends, not only is it possible, but necessary. The Israeli society is at a crossroad. Its four main components: secular and orthodox, Arabs and religious, are becoming closer to each other by size, while drifting apart in almost any other way. They speak different languages, their values are not the same, their dreams differ, and the future they envision for our home, the home of all of us, looks different.
In twenty years, the wonderful youth that is present here tonight would have to lead the country with their parallels from the Arab public and the orthodox public. If they will not have a mutual language, if they will not be familiar with each other, if they will not remember – even during a bitter discussion – that this home belongs to e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e, then how will they ever succeed with their mission?
Until we deliver the torch, the responsibility rests on our shoulders. This is our shift, and we must do everything and anything to prepare them properly to guide the Israeli society and lead the State of Israel. Together we will rekindle an Israeli hope.