Thousands attend Rabin memorial rally in Tel Aviv, 25 years after assassination

Headlining event, opposition leader Lapid vows to defend Israel from ‘those trying to destroy it from within’

Israelis gather at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv for a memorial ceremony marking 25 years since the assassination of late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, held on November 7, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israelis gather at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv for a memorial ceremony marking 25 years since the assassination of late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, held on November 7, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Thousands of people took part in the annual memorial rally for late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv Saturday, 25 years after his assassination by a right-wing extremist.

The event at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, scene of his shooting by Yigal Amir at the end of a peace rally on November 4, 1995, had been planned for last Wednesday, on the anniversary of his death, but was postponed due to heavy rains.

Amir shot Rabin dead at the end of a rally in Tel Aviv called to highlight opposition to violence and to showcase public support for his efforts to make peace with the Palestinians.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the shooting, the Yitzhak Rabin Center on Thursday lit 25,000 candles in the square where Rabin was assassinated and which is now named for him.

From right to left, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, Miri Aloni, foreign minister Shimon Peres and Knesset speaker Shevah Weiss sing a ‘Song for Peace’ at the end of a rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday, November 4, 1995. Rabin was assassinated as he left the rally minutes later. (AP photo)

The exhibit built on the Jewish tradition of lighting a candle in memory of a loved one on the anniversary of their death, as well as on memories of the many candles that were lit by teenagers and young Israelis when they gathered to mourn Rabin’s killing in the days that followed the murder.

Israelis light memorial candles on the 25th anniversary of the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Several popular artists were set to perform Saturday, including Aviv Gefen and Miri Aloni — who also sang during Rabin’s final rally 25 years ago — as well as Miri Mesika and Meital Trabelsi.

The event’s keynote speaker was Knesset opposition leader Yair Lapid. Amid ongoing mass protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for alleged corruption and attacks on democratic institutions, Lapid appeared to aim much of his commentary at the premier.

“We’re here today because Yitzhak Rabin left us a simple legacy: To protect our country. That’s the summary of Rabin’s legacy; we’ll protect our country because we love it with all our heart,” Lapid said.

Israelis gather at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv for a remembrance ceremony marking 25 years since the assassination of late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, on November 7, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“We’ll defend our country from those trying to destroy it from the outside and those trying to destroy it from within. We’ll defend our country from those who are trying to destroy it from the seat of power. They won’t define who we are. We won’t take lessons in patriotism from anyone. They won’t decide for us what is left and what is right. They won’t tell us what it is to be a Zionist. They won’t tell us how to be a Jew.”

On November 4, 1995 — two years after his famous White House handshake with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat sealed the historic Oslo accords — Rabin was gunned down during a peace rally in Tel Aviv.

His murder by Amir, who was opposed to Oslo, triggered an outpouring of grief, with young Israelis flocking to light candles in the plaza outside Tel Aviv city hall — since renamed Rabin Square.

Adopting the motto to “neither forget, nor forgive,” waves of young Israelis who asserted their demand for peace came to be known as “the Generation of Candles.”

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin pictured during a hotel association dinner held in Tel Aviv, Israel, Jan. 28, 1993. Earlier in the day, Israel’s Supreme Court upheld Rabin’s cabinet decision to deport over 400 Palestinians to Lebanon. (AP Photo/Jeremy Feldman)

While the trauma of his murder persists, the Generation of Candles’ call to end the Palestinian conflict has dimmed, as enmity wears on.

Israel’s presence in the West Bank, which Oslo was intended to greatly reduce, has instead seen the continuing expansion of Jewish settlement construction in the territory that Palestinians want for a future state.

Rabin’s once-grand Labor party now holds just three seats in the 120-member Knesset and is projected to be eliminated altogether in the next election. The intensely divided Israeli society of 25 years ago seems no less fragmented and turbulent in 2020.

On Wednesday, a Beersheba court rejected a request by jailed assassin Amir for a prison furlough to attend his son’s bar mitzvah. The request was rejected by the Israel Prisons Service earlier this week, prompting the convicted killer to turn to the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court.

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