Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the murder of Yitzhak Rabin “one of the worst crimes of the new age,” during his opening remarks to the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday.
“It certainly besmirched the annals of the state and of Zionism. It will be etched in Jewish history along with other traumatic events, including those from ancient times such as the murder of Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam,” said the prime minister.
The Cabinet members held a moment of silence in Rabin’s memory.
Ceremonies and memorial services marking the 17th anniversary of the assassination of prime minister Rabin were being held on Sunday at locations across the country.
At 3 p.m. a formal ceremony took place at Rabin’s grave on Mount Herzl, in Jerusalem, for the slain leader and his wife Leah, who passed away on November 12, 2000. The ceremony was attended by President Shimon Peres, Netanyahu and other government and military leaders.
Peres eulogized his late colleague and spoke of Rabin’s commitment to national security, social justice, and a democratic Israel.
“His vision was clear and sharp, a Jewish and democratic state,” Peres said, adding the Rabin feared a binational Israeli-Palestinian state would devolve into endless binational conflict.
“He opted for a country built upon social justice. Security needs and social will complement our existence as a single, just and strong country,” Peres said of Rabin.
Netanyahu took the opportunity to reiterate warnings about the hazards of the contemporary Middle East, with particular emphasis on Iran. “A great upheaval of historic proportions is occurring around us. Even during Rabin’s time Iran indicated its threat to Israel and the region. Rabin identified this emerging threat well. Iran has since advanced its methods in its program to acquire nuclear weapons.”
Rabin, Netanyahu said, “understood that the way to guarantee our security was first and foremost our ability to defend ourselves. If we are weak, no one will take us into account and our enemies will not accept our existence.”
A special memorial session was held at the Knesset at 5:00 p.m.
Schools across the country marked the day by holding ceremonies and addressing the death in special discussions and workshops. This year’s theme is “Mutual responsibility and solidarity.”
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar was set to participate along with 500 representatives of youth movements in a youth memorial to be held in Or Yehuda.
On Saturday night, an estimated 20,000 people participated in a massive rally at Rabin Square. The event, which took place at the very spot where Rabin was shot three times on November 4, 1995, by right-wing extremist Yigal Amir, was organized by the Dror Israel youth group, and titled “Remembering the murder, fighting for democracy.”
Rabin served as Israel’s chief of staff during the Six Day War in 1967. Other posts that he held during his career included ambassador to the US, defense minister and 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.
Israel’s Reform movement announced Sunday that the anniversary of Rabin’s death would be marked by a day of fasting. According to the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism’s website, the ruling was based on the same principle by which the Fast of Gedaliah was declared by the Talmud to be a day of fast.
Gedaliah was the Jewish governor appointed by the Babylonians to govern Jerusalem after the destruction of the First Temple in the year 586 BCE. His assassination by a fellow Jew effectively ended Jewish rule in Israel until the rise of the Second Temple some 70 years later.
The head of IMPJ, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, last Thursday officially joined the list of the Labor Party, which was Rabin’s party, and will vie in Labor’s primary election for a spot on its Knesset list.