Almost 7,000 people attended the joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial ceremony held at Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night.The ceremony was organized by the Combatants for Peace movement in cooperation with the Parents’ Circle – Families Forum, a peace organization of Israeli and Palestinian bereaved families.Among the attendees were former Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On and Israel Prize laureate David Grossman, who lost his son Uri during the Second Lebanon War. He was the events was the keynote speaker.In his speech, Grossman responded to criticism from those who opposed the event.“In the recent years, I’ve met many bereaved families. I told them, from my experience, that even when you are inside the pain, you should remember that it is the right of each and every member of the family to grieve as he wishes, according to his character and to what his soul tells him,” he said. “No one can tell another person how to grieve. It is true for a private family, and it is true also for the bigger ‘bereavement family.’” Grossman then said that the complication between the Israelis and the Palestinians can be solved in one formula: “If the Palestinians will not have a home, Israel will not have a home. And the opposite is also true: If Israel will not be a home, Palestine will not be a home as well.”This came as Grossman spoke of his feelings about Israel as a home.“After 70 years, strong Israel is a fortress, but not a home,” he said.
He then said that “when Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman decides to prevent peace-loving Palestinians from attending a gathering like ours, Israel is less of a home.“And when Israeli snipers kill dozens of Palestinian protesters, most of them civilians, Israel is less of a home,” he said.This last quote sparked controversy, MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) called to cancel the decision to grant Grossman the Israel Prize.At the end of his speech, Grossman said that he will donate half of the money that he will receive with the Israeli Prize to Parents’ Circle – Families Forum and to Elifelet – Citizens for Refugee Children.Meanwhile, Dozens of ultraright- wing demonstrators gathered in front of the entrance to the event to protest against it. Dozens of Police and Border Police officers separated the protesters from the attendees.The protesters shouted at the attendees arriving that ceremony and called them traitors, collaborators, and Nazis.One of the protesters held a microphone and said: “The hated Left is harming Israel 365 days a year, and today is the peak.”Another one said, “There is nothing innocent in this provocative event. You cannot compare the murderous terrorists to our attempts to protect ourselves.” At a certain point, some demonstrators left the protest area and started chasing some of the attendees and verbally assaulted them, until they were blocked by police.When the ceremony ended, a large group of protesters waited for the attendees at the parking lot. Some of them chanted: “Death to left-wingers.”Among the far-right protesters were well-known activists, such as Benzti Gopstein, Baruch Marzel and attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir.Earlier on Tuesday, the High Court of Justice ruled in favor of allowing the entrance of some 90 Palestinians from the West Bank who were invited to the ceremony.
Assaf Yakobovich, of Combatants for Peace, explains the joint Israeli-Palestinian Remembrance Day ceremony, April 17th, 2018. (Credit: Udi Shaham)