October 19, 2015
We thank you for inviting us here today and for your decision to mark Shira’s contribution to the community through her volunteering at the WIZO women’s shelter.
Shira was an active girl who, as she matured over the past few years, amazingly juggled her schedule between her classes, piano, family, friends, fun, reading, and volunteer work.
We heard about the wonderful things Shira did at the women’s shelter and we wish to tell you that we were always happy and proud to hear from Shira that she invested thought, care, and time in her work with children at the shelter, and that she initiated special activities and made her modest contribution to providing a stable and responsible environment to children who ended up in the shelter due to the circumstances of their lives.
Shira volunteered at the shelter as part of a personal commitment program at her high school. She could just as well have chosen an easier task; had she done so during her second year of volunteering it would have been accepted with understanding and without anyone raising an eyebrow.
But Shira – and this too is part of her wonderful maturing – did not choose to make her life easy, because she knew that life is like riding a bicycle: if it’s too easy, it means you’re going downhill…
Volunteering at a women’s shelter exposed Shira to the less pleasant sides of Israeli society, and she treated the women whose fate it was to be there with understanding and empathy which are not necessarily characteristic of a teenage girl.
We thought that it would be fitting on this WIZO stage to also talk about Shira’s awareness and feminism, which, among other things, led to her mature, worthy and balanced perspective about the proper relations between a couple. On this point, it is interesting to reread a paper she wrote with a friend in a mythology course at school.
The paper was on the story of Pygmalion and Galatea. The paper begins by describing the misogynistic sculptor Pygmalion who decided to sculpt what he considered to be the perfect woman without any of the flaws of actual living women. Pygmalion becomes so dedicated to his creation that he falls madly in love with it, and finally asks Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, to animate the statue, Galatea. The story naturally ends with a description of love and a life of happiness.
As part of the paper, Shira and her friend compared Pygmalion and Galatea’s relationship with that of the ostensibly ideal relationships in Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.
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?
This critical view – of stories which seem to be part and parcel of childhood in the Western world, and which, perhaps unintentionally, serve as part of the tracking process of girls, young women and women towards objectification and serving as a mere pretty vessel – is part of who Shira was: she would not bow at the situation, but rather did her best to change it – whether by volunteering at the shelter, marching in the gay pride parade or taking part in other activities.
This wording from 15-year old girls at the beginning of adolescence, teaches us about their skeptical attitude toward the reality around them. In this reality, on one hand, Shira lived her life in relative peace and tranquility, and, on the other hand, left her comfort zone to meet women and children whose lives had been overturned, but still found the strength to go back week after week, year after year, and do everything she could to make their time with her more enjoyable.
We hope that many more volunteers will continue to help and contribute to this and other programs, and gain the joy and empowerment that Shira gained.
We thank you.