A general view shows Rabin square during a rally commemorating the 20th anniversary of the assassination of late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv, Israel, October 31, 2015..
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
It starts with the Hebrew anniversary of the assassination that shocked the nation, and continues until November 4, the date according to the civil calendar. It’s been 23 years since those three shots rang out in Tel Aviv, in the square that would be renamed Rabin Square. It was renamed to commemorate prime minister and defense minister Yitzhak Rabin who was gunned down on the steps as he left a rally that was held under the title: “Yes to peace, no to violence.”
The weeks and months that followed the assassination were wracked with pain and soul-searching, but also with incrimination and slurs against political rivals. Assassin Yigal Amir, a resident of Herzliya, was painted as representing all settlers and all religious Israelis.
Sadly, more than two decades later, many kippa-wearing, openly religious Israelis still don’t feel welcome at the central rally commemorating the murder, which this year is being held Saturday night.
The task of remembering Rabin cannot fall on just one camp, nor should it be hijacked by one side to further its political and social agenda.
Tomorrow night’s rally is being organized by a group called Darkenu, not affiliated with any party. Darkenu chair Dr. Kobi Richter says that he seeks to reach out to all. In a radio interview yesterday on Kan Reshet Bet, Richter said that the group’s stated aim at the rally was to fight divisiveness. “I hope we can still reinstate the connection between the moderate Right and the moderate Left, who have more in common than each has with the extremists of its side,” Richter said.
But in order to talk, he added, the labeling of all right-wingers as “fascists” and “racists” and of all the Left as “traitors” and “Israel-haters” has to end.
It is no easy task. Both President Reuven Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein declined to address tomorrow’s rally, presumably for fear that it will be politicized as in the past. Last year, for example, Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi was booed when he addressed the crowd.
The inclusion this year of Regional Cooperation Minister and Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi was blasted in particular by Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg, whose party continues to focus on charges that right-wing and rabbinic-sanctioned incitement led to Rabin’s murder.
At this year’s ceremonies on the Hebrew date of Rabin’s assassination, Rabin’s grandchildren attacked Netanyahu and his government. Noa Rothman, the granddaughter who gave such a moving personal eulogy at Rabin’s funeral in 1995, this time delivered a speech in which she made false accusations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying: “If you don’t stop the incitement and attacks against anyone who disagrees with you, blood will be spilled here again.”
Turning the commemoration events in Rabin’s memory into narrow tools to bash the Right and the religious – politicizing and further polarizing an already fractured society – is easy, but wrong.
Israel is a democracy. The speakers at tomorrow’s rally are free to say what they think, but that does not mean that they can ignore the impact of their words, for better or for worse. The rally in Rabin Square is an opportunity to overcome the divisions and look ahead.
A generation of people who weren’t even born at the time of the assassination has grown up. We need to find a way to keep Rabin’s memory alive in a way that brings people together, not furthers the divides them.
On Saturday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, we saw the tragic results of hatred and extreme polarization when white supremacist Robert Bowers gunned down 11 Jews as they prayed at the Tree of Life - Or L’Simcha synagogue complex. There is no room anywhere for such hatred.
Rabin was the prime minister of the whole country – those who agreed with him and those who didn’t. Continuing to foster the split with broad accusations misses the main point we should all take away from the despicable deed: that we need to make sure it never happens again and that no political or national figure is ever shot down in Israel because of their beliefs.
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