An ultra-Orthodox man was sentenced to life imprisonment in Jerusalem on Sunday, for committing murder at the city’s gay pride parade last year.
Motivated by religious extremism, Yishai Schlissel fatally stabbed 16-year-old Shira Banki – and also wounded six other marchers, resulting in 31 more years in prison on top of his life sentence. He was forced to pay each victim the maximum amount set by law, 258,000 shekels.
“This is a very important declaration that the State of Israel rejects homophobic violence,” said Sarah Weil, an LGBTI activist who has been running weekly events to increase tolerance in Jerusalem since Banki’s murder.
Weil told The AJN that the judge could have handed down a lighter sentence. “I’m proud of our justice system,” she said, adding: “It’s the right decision, he should remain in prison for the rest of his life.”
In Israel, the term hate crime is reserved for nationalistic violence, but LGBTI activists say that the court’s ruling indicates that Israel is coming around to including anti-LGBTI crimes.
“This is a breakthrough,” said Chen Arieli, chairwoman of the Aguda, Israel’s main LGBTI umbrella group, citing the severe punishment imposed.
Arieli, who was talking to The AJN moments after the ruling, commented: “We’re very pleased that this is what the court has ruled. It was a hate crime and should be punished with the severity of a hate crime.”
Weil, a co-organiser with Banki’s family on events to mark her first yahrzeit, noted that Schlissel is a repeat offender; he had served 10 years in prison for stabbing three people at the 2005 parade and was only freed a few weeks before murdering Banki.
“Nothing can bring healing to the family and to the people affected, but I’m pleased to know that he will probably die in prison and won’t be given the chance to commit another act of hate,” she said.
The judges said in their decision: “This dangerous man can no longer walk around on the streets of Jerusalem or any other place.”
Schlissel had tried to gather support of other Charedim to stop the gay pride march, and then took a long knife, hid it in his clothes, and approached marchers to commit murder and attempted murder.