Central annual Rabin memorial ceremony canceled

Central annual Rabin memorial ceremony canceled

Youth groups fail to reach compromise on theme, content of event commemorating prime minister assassinated in 1995

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Thousands gather at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square to mark 15th anniversary of prime minister's assassination, Tel Aviv, Oct 30, 2010. (photo credit: Keren Freeman/Flash90)
Thousands gather at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square to mark 15th anniversary of prime minister's assassination, Tel Aviv, Oct 30, 2010. (photo credit: Keren Freeman/Flash90)

The country’s central annual ceremony commemorating slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin has been canceled due to infighting among participating youth groups.

The Fourth of November group, organizer of the event — which has been held in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square for the past 16 years — announced on Thursday that the ceremony, scheduled for Saturday, November 3, would not take place because two youth groups could not reach a compromise on the theme of the ceremony.

One of the groups, Dror Israel, will now hold its own ceremony in Rabin Square, but one week ahead of the canceled memorial.

“The split is a disaster for Rabin’s legacy,” Fourth of November members said, according to Army Radio. In the face of what they described as “bullying and manipulative methods to take over a national event,” the members said they were left with no choice but to cancel the event.

The Dror Israel and the Hamahanot Haolim youth groups disagreed over the content of the evening’s proceedings and the message the event should promote. Dror Israel reportedly wanted the ceremony to address “price tag” incidents and racist incitement by rabbis, while the other group wanted to focus on the traditional messages of peace and nonviolence.

In recent years, youth groups have made up the majority of those participating in the event, which is not officially backed or funded by the government. In the years immediately after the Rabin assassination, tens of thousands attended the event but numbers have steadily dwindled ever since.

The Dror Israel youth group will hold its event this Saturday night, October 27, at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, where Rabin was shot by Yigal Amir in November 1995. The event will be attended by a number of dignitaries, including former education minister Yuli Tamir and the general-secretary of the Israeli branch of the Bnei Akiva religious youth movement, Danny Hirschberg.

Hirschberg’s attendance at the event, at which he will also give a speech, provoked criticism from within the Bnei Akiva organization, which has a national religious ideology supporting the settlement movement.

Bnei Akiva youth leaders from the Itamar settlement wrote a letter to Hirschberg, expressing their objection to his presence at an event memorializing the man they hold partially responsible for the deaths of over 20 residents of the settlement in Palestinian terror attacks since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. The youth leaders asked Hirschberg to reconsider his planned attendance.

“How will we stand and raise the movement’s flag this coming Shabbat when we know that the general-secretary is supporting the legacy of the very person who is responsible for our pain?” they wrote.

Hirschberg defended his participation in the event by explaining that while Rabin’s policies were indeed in contradiction with the values of both Bnei Akiva his own principles, his presence at the ceremony is to express the need for unity and to hold dialogue on the anniversary of Rabin’s assassination, Army Radio reported.

The Education Ministry said it would hold an official memorial ceremony this Sunday in the town of Or Yehuda. The event, to be broadcast live on television, carries the theme “Mutual Responsibility and Solidarity.” It will be attended by Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar together with 450 high school students. The ministry has also prepared lesson guidelines for schools to teach students about the assassination and the lessons to be learned from it.

On Thursday evening, President Shimon Peres is scheduled to open events marking the 17th anniversary of Rabin’s murder. Members of Rabin’s family will attend the ceremony, called “A candle for Yitzhak,” at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

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