Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres in 1994.
(photo credit: SA’AR YA’ACOV/GPO)
There was a much larger attendance at the Ner Yitzhak candle-lighting memorial ceremony at the President’s Residence on Wednesday than there had been in recent years.
The event was dominated by Labor stalwarts including past and present members of Knesset and past government ministers. Among them were opposition leader Isaac Herzog, Amir Peretz, Hilik Bar, and Danny Yatom. There were also a lot more men wearing kippot, such as right-wing politician Moshe Lion, a senior member of the Jerusalem Municipal Council.
The record attendance had several people standing for lack of space for additional chairs. This could be attributed in part to an initiative of President Reuven Rivlin, who in June of this year brought together representatives of Shira Banki’s Way, the Rabin Center and the Gush Katif Center to engage in dialogue. The purpose was not for one ideological group to try to persuade the other, but to respect, learn to know and understand each other. Shira Banki was killed by a knife-wielding religious extremist during a gay pride parade.
The residents of Gush Katif were permanently evacuated from their homes.
Both Rivlin and Dalia Rabin, who heads the Rabin Center, referred to this at the ceremony marking the anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin was murdered at the conclusion of a peace rally in Tel Aviv 22 years ago.
His assassin, Yigal Amir, is serving a life sentence with no hope of a reprieve.
At the ceremony, Rivlin recalled that in October 1993, two young people were arrested for pasting stickers urging that Rabin be killed. The culprits were not severely punished. Instead, they were fined and given a suspended sentence.
On the eve of Yom Kippur 1994, the lawyer representing the culprits wrote a letter to Rabin, asking him to forgive them.
Rabin replied that while freedom of expression should be safeguarded, everything possible should be done to prevent civil war. In the final analysis, he acceded to the lawyer’s request and forgave the two young men.
A year later, Rabin was assassinated.
Rabin could forgive, said Rivlin, “but Yigal Amir can never be forgiven for tearing the fabric of the State of Israel.”
Rivlin said that Dalia Rabin had told him that 80% of religious state schools send their students to the Rabin Center to learn more about the history of the slain prime minister and his contribution to the security of the state.
Both Rivlin and Dalia Rabin emphasized the need to defend democracy from those who seek to destroy it, and each lamented the fragmentation of Israeli society
, the wholeness of which can be restored only through the adherence to democratic values, they said.
Rabin, relating to this dialogue, said it had been a very difficult journey, but all three had persevered. “It is never too late to start a dialogue,” she said.
This year’s memorial was also linked to the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem after the 1967 Six Day War.
At that time, the Jerusalem-born Yitzhak Rabin was chief of staff.
In an archival recording that was played, Rabin was heard saying he had fought in Jerusalem during the War of Independence and as Defense Minister had entered united Jerusalem through the Lion’s Gate.
Dalia Rabin referred to her father as “a warrior who dreamed of peace.”