“For the Courage to Change”

Rotem Elisha, a bisexual woman and a rape victim, was honored by lighting the traditional torches on the official Israel’s Independence Day ceremony in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening.

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Each year, a list of outstanding Israelis are selected to light the country’s Independence Day 12 torches, representing the 12 Tribes of Israel, which symbolize the beginning of the country’s celebration of independence.

Among the celebrants and officials who gathered at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl for this iconic ceremony, was Rotem Elisha, a bisexual woman and rape victim, who founded the women’s group ‘No More Being Silent, Fight for Freedom and Equality.’ Rotem lit the torch for recognizing women and men who demonstrated outstanding civil bravery.

Rotem’s full speech:

“Rotem Elisha, daughter of Sigalit and Victor, lighting this torch in honor of strong , brave and inspiring women, for the fighters for equal opportunities between men and women. For my brothers and sisters who were sexually attacked like I was – we have nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not our fault. For the courage to expose for those who stand in the shadows. For the young women and men who are not afraid to protest, fight and fix. For the belief that it can be better. For the courage to change, and for the glory of the state of Israel.”

“No More Being Silent” (Mafsikot Lishtok) Facebook page was started by Rotem, then a Ramleh high-school student, to protest the ban on high-school girls wearing short skirts or short pants, while boys were allowed to wear shorts – which sparked a wave of protest throughout the country against the inequitable treatment in schools regarding girls’ attire.

“I’m speechless from all the intensity and the presence of this ceremony,” wrote Rotem yesterday on her Facebook page. “It’s hard for me to internalize and understand how big and influential it is.”

“After the ceremony suddenly there was a crowd of dozens of people. I was in the middle, people came to talk to me, shake my hand, honorable people came to me, young women, men. Suddenly I realized that it was real and I wasn’t hallucinating, and then I started to panic from the number of people (it’s hard when you have social anxiety to be surrounded by so many people without preparing for it), and suddenly to realize how big and honorable it is to do this. It stressed me out.”