Meeting of social organizations at the Knesset – Jerusalem Day 2016

Meeting of social organizations at the Knesset – Jerusalem Day 2016

Shalom to everyone and thank you for coming.

Shira, our eldest daughter – a strong, successful, and idealistic girl – fell victim to prejudice, hate, fear, incitement, and refusal and inability to accept those who are different from you.

The poet Yehuda Amichai wrote, “Where we are righteous, flowers will never grow in springtime.”

We believe that this place which is hosting us, Israel’s Knesset, there are many people who believe in the righteousness of their cause, but the murder of Shira compels them and all of us to stop and consider how far they should go on their path of righteousness.

To protect human life and earn a more tolerant society, the price of being a little less righteous and far less aggressive does not sound so bad.

We are here as part of the Jerusalem Day events.  182 soldiers and 20 civilians were killed and another 1,000 people were wounded with varying degrees of severity in the campaign for Jerusalem in 1967.  That is a heavy price to pay, and if could ask the dead and wounded whether the unification of Jerusalem was worth such a terrible sacrifice, we would probably get diverse answers.  That does not mean that there was a choice or that it was possible or even worthwhile to act differently, but before we embark on hate and war, we should remember its terrible price and try and find other paths.

A gay pride parade was held in Tel Aviv last Friday, and a flag dance was held in Jerusalem yesterday.

These two events are ostensibly so different that it appears that there can be no connection between them, but they have much in common.  They both arouse strong feelings, they are both very important to their supporters, and both arouse strong objections among other groups.  Whether we like it or not, they were both held within three days and 60 kilometers of each other, and both included many thousands of people who live in this country. Not only are these people sentenced to live together, but often they even wish to.

Leaders, educators, and opinion-setters have the duty to allow everyone to reside here together and establish mutual understanding between the country’s various sectors.  It is superfluous to state that understanding does not necessarily mean agreement, but understanding does reduce friction, lowers hate, breaks down walls, and saves lives.

Hate is easy to teach.  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.

Let us try to hate less, recognize, and accept.  We jeopardize nothing by doing so; at most, we will live better and bury fewer of our children.

This Is Jerusalem! – Teachers’ Lounge – in commemoration of Shira – is intended to do precisely that:  bring together teachers from different communities, enable them to get to know each other and teach each other so that, most importantly of all, they can raise here a generation that hates less.

One of the regrettable things we have heard more than once following the murder was the comment that it is because Shira was not a member of the LGBTQ community, only for this reason, that the shock to society was so great and the incident was not forgotten by the public.

How pitiful it is to think that were the victim a member of the community, the incident would have become an internal community affair that would not affect society at large, as if, “it wouldn’t have happened to us, the straights.”

Yet it happened.  The knife in this case was blind. It injured those present irrespective of their sexual orientation.  Yes – it can happen to anyone.

Intolerance is blind to its victims.  Tolerance is opening one’s eyes to look at the other.