It seems the rifts between Right and Left, religious and secular, settlers and
Tel Avivians have only deepened since that fateful night on November 4, 1995,
when Yigal Amir shot dead prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
the central ceremony organized on the anniversary of Rabin’s political
assassination in Rabin Square – the site of his murder – has in the past only
served to exacerbate these rifts. Groups aligned with the Left have consistently
dominated this ceremony and alienated the Right by advancing a narrow political
agenda based on the principles of the Oslo Accords, which, despite the good
intentions of Rabin and others, led to much Jewish bloodshed.
problematic has been the consistent exclusion of right-wing politicians, rabbis
and national-religious leaders from the annual ceremony.
Not only have
organizers refrained from inviting Israelis from the Right to speak, visibly
religious men and women have often been made to feel unwanted, as if by being
religious they were personally responsible for the heinous crime committed by
Amir, who wears a kippa and attended national-religious educational
But this year is shaping up to be different.
first time in 17 years, Bnei Akiva, the single largest national-religious youth
movement in Israel, will take an active part in the memorial ceremony that has
traditionally included most of the major secular youth movements.
Akiva’s head, Danny Hirschberg, will be addressing the crowd that will gather in
Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square this Saturday night. Other rabbis are expected to speak
Courage and compromise on both sides has resulted in the
refreshing change. After years of being excluded from the ceremonies and blamed
for Rabin’s death simply because they strongly opposed Rabin’s political views,
it is not easy for Hirschberg to accept the invitation.
Hirschberg came under fire. Members of the Bnei Akiva branch in Itamar sent a
letter to the Bnei Akiva leader urging him not to take part in the
“Even the desire for unity does not justify taking part in an
event that glorifies a man whose legacy was national defeatism and the offering
of ‘sacrifices for peace’ on the altar of Oslo,” they wrote.
reflects a not uncommon tendency by some on the Right to confuse the tragic
outcome of the Oslo Accords with Rabin’s sincere intention to achieve
Thankfully, Hirschberg and most others on the Right are capable of
making this distinction.
Meanwhile, the left-wing organizers of this
year’s memorial ceremony – the kibbutz movement’s Dror Israel – had their own
extremists to deal with. An NGO called “November 4,” which organized last year’s
ceremony after the Yitzhak Rabin Center stopped providing funding, insisted on
maintaining the format of previous years that focused on a narrow political
agenda advanced by the Left. As in previous years, “November 4” did not invite
But out of a desire to incorporate a more diverse group of
participants – including Bnei Akiva and representatives of the right-wing – Dror
Israel sought to broaden the theme of the ceremony.
From a narrow
political agenda focusing on dismantling of settlements and opposition to
“occupation,” Dror Israel wanted to encourage a broader discussion of issues
such as the deteriorating solidarity in Israeli society, the need for a strong
democracy that enables diverse groups – Arab and Jewish – to live together in
harmony and equality and a recognition of the dangers of incitement to violence,
including the incitement that preceded Rabin’s assassination.
Dror Israel against “November 4.”
In the end, Dror Israel won the battle.
“November 4” agreed to cancel its ceremony, scheduled for Saturday, November
Dror Israel’s ceremony slated for Saturday, October 27, which brings
together members of the Right and the Left, religious and secular, Tel Avivians
and settlers, will be the most inclusive memorial ceremony for Rabin ever.
Hopefully this marks a turning point, and future ceremonies commemorating Rabin
will cease being a stage for division and dissent and start being opportunities
for dialogue and the bridging of differences.