Reuven Rivlin hosts Rabin commemoration for the last time in his tenure

The president touched on recent displays of division in Israeli society, saying that "25 years later the country is splitting like the Red Sea."

President Reuven Rivlin speaking at the memorial for Yitzhak Rabin on the 25th anniversary of his assasination. (photo credit: MARC NEYMAN/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin speaking at the memorial for Yitzhak Rabin on the 25th anniversary of his assasination.
(photo credit: MARC NEYMAN/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday hosted the commemoration ceremony for slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin for the sixth and last time during his tenure.
He would have liked the 25th anniversary ceremony to be conducted differently, he said, but unfortunately the coronavirus pandemic interfered with such plans.
 Thus, the ceremony was conducted on an outdoor terrace, with minimal attendance, whereas in past years it had been conducted indoors in the presence of many of Rabin's family, followers and friends.
For the first time, Rachel Yaakov, Rabin’s 95-year-old sister, did not make the journey to Jerusalem from Kibbutz Manara near the Lebanese border to join the rest of the family at commemoration ceremonies. Likewise, the many children from schools named for Yitzhak Rabin were also absent, with the exception of four youngsters who joined Rivlin in lighting the multi-wick memorial candle.
Throughout his presidency, which concludes in July 2021, Rivlin's focus has been on three principal themes: the closing of gaps between the four main sectors (or tribes as he calls them) of Israel's population; insistence that there is no contradiction between a Jewish and a democratic state; and national unity coupled with global Jewish unity despite ideological and religious differences.
The goals for which he has worked so diligently have not materialized. Twenty-five years after Rabin's assassination, it pains him that "the country is divided like the Red Sea and hatred bubbles up beneath our feet.  It cannot be that signs calling for the death of citizens are on display.  It cannot be that journalists live under threat. It cannot be that citizens beat other citizens. It cannot be that police face severe verbal assault.
“And it cannot be that someone will consider that the assassination of a prime minister, president or member of Knesset is even a possibility,” the president said. “It cannot be that we permit the next possible murder – even the slightest possibility – by what we say or what we fail to say, by looking or failing to look, by actions or by inaction."
Rivlin said that he had not deviated from the political views that he held 25 years ago, which differed greatly from those of Rabin, but that did not diminish his admiration for Rabin as a leader.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, while lauding recent peace agreements with Arab states within the region, underscored that they are meaningless "if we do not make peace among ourselves."
Gantz said that although he had not known Rabin well, he was familiar with his style of leadership, and with what he had done for the country, advocating that everyone in their personal behavior should strive to set an example.
BETRAYING EMOTION, even after 25 years, Dalia Rabin voiced appreciation to Rivlin for going ahead with the Ner Yitzhak (Memorial Candle) ceremony, despite the circumstances. She was also appreciative of the fact that Gantz had spoken from the heart.
Describing her father as a shy, modest man despite the leadership he displayed as a soldier, diplomat and politician, she said that he would not have wanted to be remembered through state ceremonies and schools and streets being named after him.
She spoke in a similar vein in an online memorial program hosted by the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA), which she noted that by its nature, brought together Jewish communities from all over Australia for the first time in paying tribute to her father.  It was very important to her and her family that her father be remembered as a leader and a man of principle, she said.
On a personal level, she spoke of her father as a shy man, but also as a very warm, devoted family man, who when she was ill as a child had sat by her bedside.
He had given up his personal dream of being a water engineer in order to play his part in the defense of the nation, she said. Even though he realized the importance of water to the country, national security was a priority.
"His signature is in every chapter of the history of Israel," she said.
The diverse, multi-generational program was in a mix of Hebrew and English, featuring photographs of Rabin from babyhood to the time of his death, often with members of his generation who made history with him and in their own right.
There was also video archive footage along with the participation of former MK and retired IDF Col. Omer Bar Lev, whose father Haim Bar Lev had succeeded Rabin as Chief of Staff after serving as his deputy, and who later was a minister in Rabin's first government.
There were also speakers from Zionist youth groups who spoke of Rabin's legacy. ZFA president Jeremy Leibler, though a teenage leader of Bnei Akiva at the time of the assassination, recalled that despite his Bnei Akiva ideology, he had seen some hope for peace in the Oslo Accords.
The assassination, he said, made a profound impact on Jews from around the world.  He remembered how his father Mark, a prominent leader of the Australian Jewish community, had been besieged by journalists who kept calling to get his reaction to a prime minister of Israel being killed by a Jew.
Regardless of political affiliation, Leibler said that "we must reflect on the legacy of Rabin's life of service.  We, the silent majority, must no longer remain silent."
 The ZFA program can be viewed on YouTube.