Sixteen years ago today (Friday), Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin stood in front of a square crammed with supporters in Tel Aviv, rallying support for the budding peace process with the Palestine Liberation Organisation. His assassination at the conclusion of that historic evening has had immeasurable consequences, among them, the annual memorial rally that has been held in that same square in Tel Aviv for the past 15 years. Tomorrow, however, the square will remain empty.
After the last memorial rally in 2010 failed to bring enough supporters to fill Rabin Square, many felt that it was time to move on to a different format. Not least among them was Dalia Rabin-Pelossof, daughter of the late Prime Minister and chair of the Yitzhak Rabin Centre which up until now organised the annual rallies. The decision to discontinue the rallies was arrived at for financial reasons combined with a lack of public enthusiasm. As Rabin-Pelossof told Maariv: “The rally costs half a million shekels yearly […] Spending such an amount on a rally that in my opinion has exhausted itself as a memorial format, is unnecessary”. She added that she preferred the money to be invested in the educational goals of the centre.
But others felt differently. Members of Knesset and left-wing activists expressed their disappointment at the decision to discontinue the rallies. MP Dov Khenin told Maariv: “This year specifically there is a need for the rally, not as a memorial but as a protest against the government that has completely abandoned the road to peace, is threatening democracy and ignoring the public’s demands for social justice.” Yariv Oppenheimer, Peace Now’s director-general concurred: “It is important that the memorial day for the murder of Yitzhak Rabin will not become a sterile event in Mount Herzl or the Knesset.”
In the midst of the public debate, the permanent memorial for the slain Israeli Prime Minister near Tel Aviv City Hall was vandalised last month. Shvuel Schijveschuurder, a 27-year-old man who lost five family members in a suicide bombing, defaced the memorial on October 14 in protest at the government’s decision to free 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for captive soldier Gilad Shalit, among them, two of those responsible for the attack that shattered his family.
Meanwhile, Hemi Sal, who produced the past rallies, has teamed up with former MK Rabbi Michael Melchior and others in order to maintain the memorial in its current format. They have set up a non-profit organisation named “The 4th of November 1995”, the sole purpose of which is to keep up the rallies. Mr Sal told Haaretz: “As long as there are people who want to do it, the rally will persist.”
But the rally that was to be held tomorrow night has been postponed due to bad weather.