July 31, 2015
Over the past few days, I have found my thoughts overshadowed by a profound sadness. In the aftermath of Thursday’s stabbing at the Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance—that has now claimed the life of 16-year-old Shira Banki—and of another horrific attack that resulted in the death of an 18-month-old Palestinian boy in Duma, I feel overwhelmed once again by the damage and pain that hate can inflict.
But despite the darkness brought on by these tragic events, I am ever more adamant that we must not falter in our quest to seek the light. It is hope and optimism that have carried us through hardship, steered us away from the forces that seek to inflame and divide and guided us toward a better tomorrow. While there are those who would seek to tarnish the Jewish commitment to justice and inclusion, there are countless others who devote themselves every day to ensuring that our community remains one built on love and acceptance.
These shameful acts of violence do not represent Jewish values. They do not represent our people.
Three years ago, I had the privilege to deliver the keynote speech at the 2012 Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance, the very event that was so tragically marred last week by bloodshed. I was thrilled to walk with the thousands of people who had gathered to prove that we all have a place in our community, that we are stronger for our differences and that when we stand up for what's right, love wins.
We had all come that day to pray with our feet, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said when he marched for equality with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We had come to look hatred and intolerance in the face, to demand equal rights for ourselves and our loved ones and to reclaim Jerusalem as a modern, open, vibrant capital belonging to us all. Most importantly—in the words of Dr. King—we came to insist on the “fierce urgency of now.”
Despite our gains, that urgency remains today. As I re-read the words I spoke that day, I see that they ring as true now as they did then:
Looking out at the sea of faces before me, I am awed and amazed. Like you, I am here to add my voice to the call for inclusion and equality. To say that we will not stand idly by in the face of hatred and intolerance. To march in solidarity with those who have been bullied or excluded NOT for what they have done but simply for who they are …
There are still too many stories of Jews who feel unwelcome because of who they love, the color of their skin or how many Jewish parents they have. Now, more than ever, we need to uphold inclusion and equality as fundamental tenets of our community, here in Israel and in the Diaspora. We need to embrace the rich diversity of the Jewish People.
It will take strong leadership and resolve to get there—the same type of leadership and resolve it took a decimated people to build the State of Israel as the Jewish homeland … No, we will not stand idly by. We will rise up as one in a community of many to demand the change we seek.
The events of this week have shown us that we are not done rising. We must continue to heed the call to create a Jerusalem, an Israel and a Jewish people grounded in love, tolerance, hope and positivity. Be it that our actions at home and around the world suffocate the flames of hatred and violence. Be it that all who come to know Israel, come to know it as a beacon of democracy, community, freedom of expression and progress through innovation.
The crimes committed yesterday were committed against all of us; they were an attack on every citizen of the State of Israel and on advocates for equality across the world. I commend the statements from Israel’s leaders condemning the attacks.
And now we must build on these statements. It is not enough to simply decry—rather, each of us has the responsibility to staunchly defend the human rights owed to us all. To hold our leaders accountable. To organize ourselves, take action and ensure that our voices are loud enough for all to hear.
As we look toward the road ahead, let us all recommit ourselves to upholding our fundamental obligation to advocate for love, tolerance and acceptance—in Israel and in every community around the world.