The Orthodox Jewish movement Yud Bet B'Heshvan on Tuesday commemorated the twelfth Hebrew calendar anniversary of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, while right-wing groups called for the release of his assassin Yigal Amir, who shot Rabin three times on November 4, 1995.
Yud Bet B'Heshvan is supported by the U.S.-based New Israel Fund, and takes its name from the Hebrew date of Rabin's murder. The movement, which comprises 120 Orthodox families, is responsible for the establishment of the Yitzhak Rabin Synagogue in Rehovot.
"We are a religious Zionist movement that began out of distress at the Orthodox community's reaction to what happened," says Yud Bet B'Heshvan director Gadi Gvaryahu. "It's important to understand we are Orthodox, not a branch of the Labor party," he added.
"More and more Orthodox Jews are beginning to see that the Haredi, National Religious movement is a dead-end street," said Gvaryahu. "Our synagogue is important because all shades of the political spectrum are represented in it, left and right. That's the difference between us and the beliefs we aim to get away from."
Gvaryahu says his group is not alone within the Orthodoxy despite scarce, though growing support for its views. "The more support these pluralistic, open groups get, the more education they impart, the smaller the chance another Yigal Amir will rise," he said.
Tuesday night's ceremony took place at Yud Bet B'Heshvan's synagogue, named after the late prime minister. The ceremony was attended by 250 Orthodox Jews, ranging from families to members of national youth movements. Rehovot's Chief Rabbi and the town mayor addressed the crowd, and prayers were said for the late prime minister. Speakers condemned Yigal Amir as the worst kind of evil-doer, masquerading as a Jew while acting against everything the religion preaches.
The decision to honor Rabin by establishing a synagogue was inspired by Israel's former Chief Sephardi Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron. "He said the only answer to the claim that the killing of Rabin was done in the name of G-d is the establishment of a synagogue in Rabin's name," Gvaryahu said. The group has also founded a school and a Yeshiva in the Rehovot area.
Rabin's assassination divided the Orthodox community in Israel and abroad. During his premiership, Rabin's leftist policies on relations with the Palestinians had incited vehement reactions among Orthodox leaders who claimed he was responsible for Jewish deaths.
In a New York Times report published two weeks after the killing, Jewish community leaders spoke out against media stereotyping of the Orthodoxy as supportive of the assassination. "They are garbed in our attire, they look like us, but they are not us," said Rabbi Rafael Grossman, president of the Rabbinical Council of America.
Aaron Soloveichik, a renowned Jewish scholar and teacher, told the N.Y. Times he felt guilty "because I didn't try enough to hammer into the minds and hearts of my students the barbarity of bloodshed." Rabbi Marc Angel of Manhattan's Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue added "If he was a lone assassin, we could just say he was a nut. But now they've arrested six or seven other people and we hear people are sympathetic to him. In Orthodoxy at large, there's kind of a loose cannon; we haven't been successful at stopping this."
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