Editorial: Remembering Rabin

Dror Israel’s ceremony slated for October 27 will be the most inclusive memorial ceremony for Rabin ever. Hopefully this marks a turning point.

Yitzhak Rabin 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Yitzhak Rabin 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It seems the rifts between Right and Left, religious and secular, settlers and Tel Avivians have only deepened since that fateful night on November 4, 1995, when Yigal Amir shot dead prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Unfortunately, the central ceremony organized on the anniversary of Rabin’s political assassination in Rabin Square – the site of his murder – has in the past only served to exacerbate these rifts. Groups aligned with the Left have consistently dominated this ceremony and alienated the Right by advancing a narrow political agenda based on the principles of the Oslo Accords, which, despite the good intentions of Rabin and others, led to much Jewish bloodshed.
More problematic has been the consistent exclusion of right-wing politicians, rabbis and national-religious leaders from the annual ceremony.
Not only have organizers refrained from inviting Israelis from the Right to speak, visibly religious men and women have often been made to feel unwanted, as if by being religious they were personally responsible for the heinous crime committed by Amir, who wears a kippa and attended national-religious educational institutions.
But this year is shaping up to be different.
For the first time in 17 years, Bnei Akiva, the single largest national-religious youth movement in Israel, will take an active part in the memorial ceremony that has traditionally included most of the major secular youth movements.
Bnei Akiva’s head, Danny Hirschberg, will be addressing the crowd that will gather in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square this Saturday night. Other rabbis are expected to speak as well.
Courage and compromise on both sides has resulted in the refreshing change. After years of being excluded from the ceremonies and blamed for Rabin’s death simply because they strongly opposed Rabin’s political views, it is not easy for Hirschberg to accept the invitation.
Indeed, Hirschberg came under fire. Members of the Bnei Akiva branch in Itamar sent a letter to the Bnei Akiva leader urging him not to take part in the memorial.
“Even the desire for unity does not justify taking part in an event that glorifies a man whose legacy was national defeatism and the offering of ‘sacrifices for peace’ on the altar of Oslo,” they wrote.
The letter reflects a not uncommon tendency by some on the Right to confuse the tragic outcome of the Oslo Accords with Rabin’s sincere intention to achieve peace.
Thankfully, Hirschberg and most others on the Right are capable of making this distinction.
Meanwhile, the left-wing organizers of this year’s memorial ceremony – the kibbutz movement’s Dror Israel – had their own extremists to deal with. An NGO called “November 4,” which organized last year’s ceremony after the Yitzhak Rabin Center stopped providing funding, insisted on maintaining the format of previous years that focused on a narrow political agenda advanced by the Left. As in previous years, “November 4” did not invite Bnei Akiva.
But out of a desire to incorporate a more diverse group of participants – including Bnei Akiva and representatives of the right-wing – Dror Israel sought to broaden the theme of the ceremony.
From a narrow political agenda focusing on dismantling of settlements and opposition to “occupation,” Dror Israel wanted to encourage a broader discussion of issues such as the deteriorating solidarity in Israeli society, the need for a strong democracy that enables diverse groups – Arab and Jewish – to live together in harmony and equality and a recognition of the dangers of incitement to violence, including the incitement that preceded Rabin’s assassination.
This pitted Dror Israel against “November 4.”
In the end, Dror Israel won the battle. “November 4” agreed to cancel its ceremony, scheduled for Saturday, November 3.
Dror Israel’s ceremony slated for Saturday, October 27, which brings together members of the Right and the Left, religious and secular, Tel Avivians and settlers, will be the most inclusive memorial ceremony for Rabin ever. Hopefully this marks a turning point, and future ceremonies commemorating Rabin will cease being a stage for division and dissent and start being opportunities for dialogue and the bridging of differences.