Over 30,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv Saturday night for the main annual memorial event marking the 18th anniversary — according to the Hebrew calendar – of the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Organizers, who put the attendance at 33,000, said this year marked the first time that all Israeli Zionist youth movements — including the Orthodox Bnei Akiva and the rightist Beitar — sent representatives to the gathering.
Rabin’s grandson, Yonatan Ben Artzi, one of the speakers, called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take advantage of the opportunities before him to bring peace, telling him this was his chance.
“My grandfather was murdered over peace, and you owe us all peace. You have a unique opportunity to take advantage of the world situation for peace. It won’t be easy or popular. But it’s your time to close a circle and bring us peace,” Ben Artzi said.
The ceremony, titled “Remembering the murder, fighting for democracy,” was held at Rabin Square, where Rabin was shot dead on November 4, 1995, by right-wing extremist Yigal Amir. Originally called Malchei Yisrael Square, it was renamed Rabin Square following the assassination.
“This is an open rally for anyone who cares about our country – left and right, religious and secular,” a representative of one of the youth groups organizing the memorial told Ynet. “Our goal is to create dialogue between groups that are far apart from each other… but can and want to form a unified front in the face of dangers that are lurking for us and our democracy.”
The memorial was marked by the attendance of a large number of young people, organized by the Dror Israel youth group with a number of other such groups.
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Politicians, public figures and religious leaders from across the political spectrum attended.
Also among the invited speakers was Hadassah Froman, the wife of the rabbi and peace activist Menachem Froman, who died in March.
A number of main streets in Tel Aviv were closed to traffic ahead of and during the event, including Ibn Gabirol, Frishman, King David, Gordon, Malchei Yisrael, Ben Gurion, Bloch and Arlozorov.
Rabin served as Israel’s chief of staff during the Six Day War in 1967. He was later ambassador to the US, defense minister and twice prime minister.
In 1994, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with then-foreign minister Shimon Peres and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat for his part in signing the Oslo Peace accords a year earlier.
Asher Zeiger contributed to this report