Israel divided: Rabin memorials reveal split in Israeli society

The divide over Rabin’s assassination is on display once again during the anniversary of his murder 23 years ago today.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Ceremonies are being held throughout the country on Sunday to commemorate the only assassination ever of an Israeli prime minister, which happened exactly 23 years ago today according to the Hebrew calendar.

The official state ceremony took place at 3 p.m. on Mt. Herzl, in the presence of Yitzhak Rabin’s family. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, and the head of the Supreme Court, Esther Hayut, among other senior members of government, were in attendance.

A special Knesset session is to take place at 5 p..m. to commemorate Rabin’s personal qualities and leadership skills.

Rabin was murdered by Yigal Amir over the Oslo Accords, the agreement in which Israel agreed to hand over historically Jewish areas to PLO Chief Yasser Arafat, known as the “Father of Modern Terrorism.”

Divisions still exist

“We’ve never known such terrible moments as those,” President Reuven Rivlin said at a memorial held at his official residence in Jerusalem on Sunday morning. “Have we been healed? Well, I’m not sure. I don’t know.”

The generations that knew Rabin as a young commander in 1948, as the Chief of Staff in 1967, and then saw how he was assassinated “will not forget nor forgive,” he added, but the challenge is whether the future generations who did not know the man, nor experience the murder, will remember.

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“And the truth is that something isn’t working,” he continued. “Because every year we have speeches and hold ceremonies, while in fact we are witnessing the erosion of the centrality of the murder and its significance for the Israeli public.

“We still have a very difficult time passing onward the … torch of memory of that evil night. Well, I’m afraid ceremonies and speeches will not help, as long as we find it hard to agree on what we want to remember.

“Some schools remember the man and others deal with Oslo; some of the schools busy themselves with the death of our matriarch, Rachel, because it also occurred at that time, and in some of them the day passes without any mention of it at all,” Rivlin said.

The murder of the prime minister, he concluded, “still divides us into camps and sectors.”

“We have to agree that we want to remember together” – in all schools, all youth groups, all institutions and national ceremonies – because “it could be the only time in our Israeli calendar that is shared by all the tribes of Israel,” Rivlin said.

The president’s attempt at rapprochement was short-lived as Rabin’s grandson took the pulpit and proceeded to attack Prime Minister Netanyahu, accusing him of incitement by calling “everyone who thinks differently from him a sourpuss or a leftist, [and] continues to tear us apart and will bring about the destruction [of the state].”

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Similarly, Labor Party Secretary General Eran Hermoni sent a letter to Netanyahu demanding that he take responsibility for “encouraging the violent atmosphere that raged in the streets” because he was the leader of the opposition at the time of the murder and publicly disagreed with the Oslo Accords.

“I expect the prime minister to take advantage of this special opportunity to finally repent of his sin. He must apologize for the wild and organized incitement that led to the period before the terrible political assassination,” Hermoni wrote.