Tens of thousands of Israelis, most members of Israeli youth movements, gathered in central Tel Aviv Saturday night to mark the 19th anniversary of the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
President Reuven Rivlin addressed the crowd of an estimated 40,000, condemning the recent upsurge in violence and encouraging those gathered to embrace each other’s differences and promote shared values.
“Violence is undermining the very foundations of Israeli democracy,” Rivlin said, hours after police shot and killed a 22-year-old in Kafr Kanna, sparking riots in northern Israel. “It must be condemned, denounced, and isolated. This is not the way of the State of Israel,” he said, quoting Rabin.
“But democracy, as we learned at the cost of the prime minister’s life, cannot stand alone without foundations,” Rivlin said. “Rabin was not murdered because of a momentary weakness in Israel’s democracy, but, crucially, against a background of a social reality ruled by mutual hostility and insensitivity.”
The event, entitled “Remembering the murder, fighting for democracy,” was held in Rabin Square, the site of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister’s 1995 shooting. A significant delegation of Arab youth movement members attended the rally, Channel 2 reported.
“You are the bridges built over the abyss that divides us — between left and right, haredi and secular, Arabs and Jews — you are now succeeding where we once failed,” Rivlin told the crowd.
“Despite the difficult and fundamental disagreements between us, we have shared values. We have what to believe in together, we have to hope for unity,” Rivlin said.
Rachelle Fraenkel, mother of one of the three teens kidnapped and murdered by a Hamas cell in the West Bank this summer, also spoke at the rally. Fraenkel announced Friday that she’d attend because the message of the gathering was that of friendship and brotherhood.
Fraenkel also addressed the issue of violence, saying that during Rabin’s time there was “troubling language” on the sidelines of protests against the prime minister’s policy of rapprochement with the Palestinians.
“Looking back on it now, we should have been more discerning about that kind of language. If we hear among us any calls that encourage or allow for the bloodshed of anyone — even if we consider them to be issued by a crazy extremist — we must take action to to educate, and correct this kind of behavior with love,” she said.