In Memory of Shira Banki
I wanted to sit alone. I wanted to sit alone and cry. But I was seated at the front of the bus and a little girl had fallen asleep on my shoulder and I tried to cry gently so as not to wake her up. And I lost myself in the cold, in the broken, in the Hallelujah. For as children we were bright lights shining, then we were dimmed, until we truly believed that Love meant hurting someone else to keep from getting hurt. And I silently begged the sleeping angel to teach me her secret, how she can fall asleep on a stranger’s shoulder. It was magic.
I was en route to Jerusalem from work and had just gotten the terrible news. Suddenly my colorful dress, all ready for the after parties and the gay bars, was infinitely too colorful, and I longed to change out of it. My heart was broken, and apparently so were my eyes because they refused to stop leaking fat salty tears.
The little girl became my first comforter of the evening. The second was a march down Yaffo Street in protest to the tragedy. Although usually that’s not my thing, I needed to be in the midst of these people who were sharing my experience. Who were feeling this calamity on their skin. Who couldn’t simply end this day by turning out the light and going to sleep. There were many flags and many colors and an abundance of broken, angry hearts. But it wasn’t enough, there was simply no cure.
It was later that night at Atara’s apartment on King George, and I was still mourning and Atara was angry because we had been told to hide our flags for fear of incitement. She decided to hang her enormous Star-of-David-on-rainbow-background flag out on the balcony. We sat out there and looked down on the sad main street and this grieving city. Then an Ultra-Orthodox woman called up to us. She began crossing the street towards us, holding her little daughter by the hand.
Atara and I were certain the woman was about to make a nasty comment about the flag; maybe call us some rude names. My tear ducts braced themselves, prepared to initiate another never-ending flow of sadness. And then came the woman’s voice, floating up to the second-floor balcony: “I wanted to thank you for hanging your flag, because I was just teaching my daughter about how we love and accept everyone for who they are regardless of their differences in opinion.”
And for the first time that evening, I could breathe easy. See, children are the only things we have that carry an ounce of hope, hope for a world filled with love and sanity. Shira Banki was a child, and was frozen in childhood forever. My only prayer is that she inspired other children, in her life, in her death. That others will uphold her legacy and complete what she couldn’t in her short life. Because “Tolerance” has a nice ring to it, but is evidently not enough. Instead, let us “Accept,” “Embrace,” and “Love” one another for all of our earth-shattering disparity and distance. Yes, our lights have been dimmed, but there are moments in which we can be children again, and experience the purity of simple love, maybe even take it with us. Moments like when you are crying on a bus and a little girl falls asleep on your shoulder.
Shira Koenigsberg currently lives in Israel and is studying English Literature at Bar Ilan University