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A Teenage Girl Who Was Stabbed at Jerusalem’s Gay Pride Parade Has Died

Sixteen-year-old Shira Banki was one of six people stabbed last week by a Jewish extremist who was recently released from prison after a previous attack on a pride parade.
August 3, 2015, 7:15pm
Photo by Abir Sultan/EPA

Shira Banki, a 16-year-old girl who was stabbed last week by a Jewish extremist during Jerusalem's annual gay pride parade, died on Sunday from wounds she sustained during the attack.

Banki was one of six people stabbed on Thursday at festivities that saw around 5,000 people — many clad in colorful feather boas and rainbow flags emblazoned with the Star of David — kissing, dancing, hugging, and celebrating their sexuality in central Jerusalem. Images of the attack show Yishai Shlissel, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, reaching inside his coat and then raising a knife above his head before stabbing the marchers. Shlissel was arrested immediately after the attack.

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Three weeks prior to the incident, Shlissel was released from jail after serving 10 years of a 12-year sentence for stabbing three parade participants at the same Jerusalem pride march in 2005. Shlissel reportedly told police that he had come to "kill in the name of God"

Related: Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade Stabbing Suspect Identified as 2005 Attacker

Shira Banki, 16 years old. May her memory be a blessing. — Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu)August 2, 2015

Banki was a tenth-grade student at Hebrew University Secondary School in Jerusalem, which reportedly displayed a pride flag on Sunday and a notice mourning her death. The school's message said Banki "was murdered by a hateful, radical man in Jerusalem. Her death compels us to accept the other, to love mankind and [defend] its freedoms."

Banki's friend Inbal Illsar remembered the slain teen as a talented classical piano player and singer, an "exceptional human being," and an "optimistic and funny" person. Banki's family also issued a statement of mourning.

"Our magical Shira was murdered because she was a happy 16-year-old — full of life and love—who came to express her support for her friends' rights to live as they choose" her family said. "Bad things happen to good people… The family expresses hope for less hatred and more tolerance."

At Shira's school today. — Quentin Sommerville (@sommervillebbc)August 3, 2015

Nir Barket, Jerusalem's mayor, commented Thursday on the police's failure to track and monitor Schlissel ahead of the parade, saying "something went wrong."

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The Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (JOH), an LGBT activist group, has hosted annual gay pride parades in Jerusalem since 2002. In 2005, the parade went ahead despite the city's attempts to prevent it on the grounds that it would be "provocative and hurt the feelings of the broader public living in and visiting the city."

The march continued after the attack on Thursday, with protesters chanting "end the violence." An estimated 10,000 people gathered Saturday night in Tel Aviv to decry the attack, and smaller protests were held in Jerusalem, Haifa, and Be'er Sheva.

Related: Tear Gas and Rubber Bullets Disrupt Istanbul Gay Pride Parade

Khader Abu-Seif, a gay Israeli-Palestinian living in Tel Aviv, spoke at Saturday's rally alongside former Israeli president Shimon Peres and other political leaders. Abu-Seif told VICE News that although Tel Aviv is generally safe for the gay community, other parts of Israel are "quite dangerous."

"You get attacked, you get killed," he said. "We need to change. I sound like a beauty pageant queen but we really need to come together."

Gay men and women have openly served in the Israeli military since 1993, and there have been LGBT employment discrimination bans in place since 1992. However, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel has said that the gay community "still faces various forms of discrimination by government authorities and in the private sector."

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According to a 2013 survey by the Israel Democracy Institute, more than 30 percent of Israeli Jews and 46 percent of Israeli Arabs don't want gay couple as neighbors. More than 68 percent of ultra-Orthodox Jews and 48 percent of religious Zionist Jews also said they wouldn't want to live next to a gay couple.

Politicians and public figures across the Israeli political spectrum condemned the recent attack. "Justice will be dealt to whoever was responsible for this act," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "In the State of Israel, an individual's freedom of choice is one of the country's most basic values."

Israel's security cabinet met on Sunday to discuss Jewish extremism after the violent stabbing. Jewish extremists were also blamed for an arson attack Friday on a Palestinian village that claimed the life of an 18-month-old toddler and severely injured the boy's parents and brother. Hebrew graffiti — the word "Revenge!" next to a Star of David — was sprayed on a wall near the site of the firebombing.

Related: Palestinian Baby Burnt to Death in Suspected 'Jewish Terror' Attack

The security cabinet issued a statement calling on Israeli authorities "to take all necessary steps to apprehend those responsible and prevent similar attacks." They also formed a committee to examine the "background and circumstances" surrounding the attack on the pride march.

Abu-Seif said he remains skeptical of the government's promises. "They say 'We will protect you, we will protect you,' But this isn't the first time something like this has happened," he said. "If we want to change our reality, we need to do it ourselves and not just wait for some savior."

Reflecting on the stabbing and the arson, Abu-Seif added that "in two days, they killed both of my identities. From one side they killed my sexual identity and from the other, they killed my Palestinian identity."

Follow Tess Own on Twitter: @misstessowen

Watch the VICE News documentary, A City Divided: Jerusalem's Most Contested Neighborhood: