Rabin memorial canceled over groups' dispute

Bnei Akiva branch expresses anger at secretary-general’s scheduled attendance at memorial.

Peres stands by commemorative poster for Rabin 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Peres stands by commemorative poster for Rabin 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
An annual memorial event commemorating slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin has been canceled following a disagreement between two youth groups on the theme of the ceremony, Army Radio reported on Thursday.
The Fourth of November NGO decided to cancel their November 3 event.
The event was meant to focus on traditional messages of peace and non-violence, while an October 27 event in Rabin Square by youth group Dror Israel will reportedly address “price tag” incidents and racist comments made by rabbis.
The yearly ceremony is held in memory of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, shot by Yigal Amir while taking part in a peace rally on November 4, 1995.
Members of the Bnei Akiva national-religious youth movement have hit out at the organization’s secretary general Danny Hershberg for agreeing to attend and speak at the October 27 ceremony for Rabin.
In a letter to Hershberg, head of the Bnei Akiva branch in the settlement of Itamar, Pinchas Michaeli wrote of “the deep shock and sadness” councillors and members of the movement felt when hearing of Hershberg’s decision to attend.
“Yitzhak Rabin as prime minister worked, advanced and strove to create an Arab entity which works tirelessly to destroy the State of Israel,” Michaeli wrote.
“The guns Yitzhak Rabin gave to the Arabs were and are used for murderous campaigns among Jewish residents of the State of Israel.
“There is no place whatsoever, even out of a desire to feel part of the Jewish people, to take part in a ceremony where they glorify the name, work and legacy of someone who left only one legacy: national defeatism and the sacrifice of the ‘victims of peace’ on the altar of Oslo.”
Michaeli called on Hershberg not to attend the ceremony and to “represent the members of his movement proudly” without bowing to the agenda of “radical leftists.”
The letter also pointed out that “20 Itamar residents have been murdered since the signing of the Oslo accords” and added that Yoav Fogel, murdered along with his parents and two siblings in Itamar in March 2011, was a member of the settlement’s Bnei Akiva branch.
Hershberg wrote in response that the ceremony will not focus on glorifying either Rabin or his legacy.
“The reason for the ceremony is [Rabin’s] murder, but the topic is how to manage dispute within society, along with an unequivocal call to struggle for the preservation of democracy,” Hershberg said.
He added that his attendance at the ceremony was not a form of “groveling,” as asserted in Michaeli’s letter, and that “we do not feel guilty for the murder of the prime minister, we feel pain..., we feel the obligation to spread the notion in Israeli society that dispute can be clarified through mutual discourse.”
“My going to Kikar [Rabin] expresses the desire to unite, to talk,” he added. Hershberg also said that he had sent the letter from the Itamar Bnei Akiva to all branches around the country in order to create a discussion on the issue.
Hershberg has received support from several prominent national-religious figures including Rabbi Benny Lau and Rabbi Avichai Rontsky.
“There are those that are trying to form a common language and those who live on dispute and divisiveness, those that understand that is possible to work together despite dispute and those who refuse to accept dispute as the language of family,” Lau wrote in an article on Ynet.
“After Shabbat, we will stand before this test, a joint stance at Rabin Square for a moment of united remembrance, not of division.”
MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) asked Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin to postpone the Knesset’s memorial ceremony for Rabin this year, so it cannot be used to promote political campaigns.
The Knesset ceremony in Rabin’s memory is scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, opposition leader Shaul Mofaz (Kadima), Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich are expected to speech, and the Rabin family plans to attend.
“These are pre-election days, and as everyone knows, people tend to take advantage of such events to gain political wealth,” Ben-Ari wrote to Rivlin on Wednesday.
“My reasonable suspicion is that instead of a serious memorial that deals with Rabin the person, we will hear heart-wrenching election speeches and incitement, all in the name of remembering Yitzhak Rabin,” he added.
According to Ben-Ari, it would be more respectful to postpone the ceremony until after the election.
Rivlin’s office never received the letter, the Knesset Speaker’s spokesman said, pointing out that the Rabin memorial ceremony is legally mandated, as is its date, so Rivlin would not be able to push it off.
President Shimon Peres on Thursday opened a series of memorial ceremonies marking the 17th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination.
“I remember that day as if 17 years have not passed,” Peres remarked at the opening of the commemoration, a day when “the arrows of incitement and the spears of hatred, wrapped in the guise of holiness,” derailed Rabin from his journey for peace.
“The way to ensure a Jewish and democratic state for future generations is to make peace,” Peres said, to carry the torch of Rabin’s legacy.Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.