WIZO Israel awarded a special certificate of appreciation to the parents of Shira Banki, z"l, who was murdered at the Jerusalem Pride Parade this past July. The certificate was presented during the 4th Quadrennial WIZO Israel Conference, which took place this week in Ramat Gan. The conference's opening event was honored by a speech given by Israel's Minister of Welfare and Social Affairs, Haim Katz. The conference was attended by hundreds of WIZO Israel members and volunteers, who took part in panel discussions on subjects including the status of women in Israel, volunteerism and social responsibility.
Prior to her murder, Shira Banki, aged 16, had volunteered at a WIZO shelter for battered women for two years, within the framework of social responsibility activities at her high school, the "Leyada" School in Jerusalem's Ein Karem neighborhood. Shira chose to continue volunteering for a third year, citing the great sense of contribution she got from her time with the children of the shelter.
Her volunteer work included being responsible for organizing social and educational activities for the shelter's children. Shira invested both time and effort to help them deal with the realities of family violence to which they had been exposed. Rivka Neumann, Director of WIZO's Division for the Advancement of Women and Shira's aunt, recalls that "Shira devoted herself to the kids, spending time drawing, storytelling and helping them with their homework. The shelter's children loved her a lot and became quite attached to her." Ms. Neumann, who also happens to be Shira's aunt, adds, "Volunteer work in the shelter demand maturity; Shira's appreciation of the complexity of the place was impressive and moving."
The certificate of appreciation was given to Shira's parents, Uri and Mika Banki, in honor of her exemplary dedication to the children of the shelter and in recognition of the unique sensitivity that she displayed to the women and children as well as her great contribution to their rehabilitation.
The battered women's shelter at which Shira volunteered is one of 14 such establishments in Israel. Alongside the professional staff that works at each shelter, dozens of volunteers support residents and their children by helping with schoolwork, caring for toddlers, escorting children to external activities and more. On average, female residents of the shelters stay for a period of six month to a year. In addition to being a lifesaving resource, the shelter acts as a therapeutic and intensive rehabilitative setting for women and their children.
Ms. Gila Oshrat, Chairperson of WIZO Israel, commented, "In spite of her young age, Shira demonstrated all of the values that lay at the heart of WIZO's ideology: equality, tolerance, acceptance of the other and giving back to one's community. We have forever lost a special young woman, who volunteered at a place that housed child victims of violence, through the murderous act of a violent and evil man. WIZO will continue to counteract violence and build social, humanistic and pluralistic debate that accepts every man or woman as they are."