Sixteen years after three shots from an assassin’s gun took the life of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, some 10,000 people came to Rabin Square in central Tel Aviv to commemorate his life, and to issue calls for nonviolence and renewed efforts for peace with neighboring countries and the Palestinians.
Peace Now General Director Yariv Oppenheimer said ahead of Saturday evening’s rally that the annual event would be more political than in previous years, and would focus largely on “price tag” operations – acts of violence by right-wing settlers targeting Palestinians and Israeli security personnel – and government legislation he said was being pushed forward to weaken the media, left-wing and opposition voices, and the Supreme Court.RELATED:Barak, Peres call for peace talks in Rabin memorialsPeace Now official's home vandalized with 'Price Tag'“There is a feeling that an attempt is under way to silence people through violent actions on the streets and through legislation in the Knesset. This is what should bring the public to the square tonight.”The emphasis on “pricetag” attacks was evident at the rally, where there was a large number of placards that read “price tag” above three bullet holes surrounded by blood. There were also signs decrying Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira’s book Torat Hamelech, which says that in certain circumstances it is permitted to kill gentile children if they would later pose a threat to Jews.Hagit Ofran, head of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch, addressed the rally, less than a week after the words “price tag” and “Rabin is waiting for you” were spray-painted on the stairwell of her apartment in Jerusalem.Like every year, a memorial tent was set up at the square to display photographs from Rabin’s life, as well as newspaper headlines and footage from right- and left-wing rallies in the days leading up to the murder.Tom Weisel, an activist from Dror Israel (the young adult division and community organizing arm of the Hano’ar Ha’oved Vehalomed youth movement), which set up the tent, said that part of its purpose was to highlight what he called the incitement that preceded Rabin’s death, in order for the public to learn from what happened.“We haven’t learned the lessons from Rabin’s murder. The same public is still threatening Israel’s democracy, still making threats against politicians,” Weisel said. “The real manifestations of this we see today are ‘pricetag’ incidents and the ‘Torat Hamelech’ book, which is an incitement to murder against gentiles.”Speaking from the stage, former Meretz Party chairman Yossi Sarid pointed an accusatory finger at forces in the country working on what he described as a path of incitement to violence and degradation of Israel’s democracy. He also appeared to make a thinly veiled accusation at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who famously stood on a balcony over a rally at Zion Square in Jerusalem in 1994, as protesters held signs depicting Rabin in an SS uniform and called Rabin a “traitor” and “murderer.”“Rabin has been forgotten. There are those who doubt the facts of his killing because it reminds them of their past. It reminds us of how they walked ahead of a coffin bearing his name, reminds us of how they stood on the balcony, and these people have never repented for their sins. And we are still waiting for their apology.“Those who made him into a target, those rabbis and politicians are still walking free today. For them, it was the perfect crime,” Sarid said.Saturday’s rally, which was delayed by a week due to inclement weather, appeared smaller than those held in recent years. Unlike in the past, no incumbent MKs or members of the Rabin family spoke. Last year’s rally, during which President Shimon Peres spoke, drew some 100,000 people.Saturday’s event was organized by the “November 4th” group instead of the Yitzhak Rabin Center as in previous years. Earlier this week, Rabin’s daughter former deputy defense minister Dalia Rabin said the time had come to find alternative ways to commemorate Rabin’s life and legacy.