Text size

Until the fifth anniversary of his death, the mass rally at the square where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated could be understood as a natural need, both because of the unique circumstances of the assassination and because of the symbolic location: Since Rabin was murdered at the height of a peace rally in the square, a phantom pain of sorts has ensued, and people feel the need to reconstruct that scene again and again.

Whether consciously or subconsciously, the ritual was prompted by an almost voodoo-like longing, as though if we could turn the "peace rally in the square" into an annual ritual, go through the same motions and gather the same number of people there as were present on the night of the assassination, one of two things would happen: either the leader would rise from the dead, or at least the peace process would.

But with all due respect to these yearnings, after five years, there ought to be some rethinking of the way Rabin's cult has congealed into this annual recycling of the initial shock and hollow coalition lamentations, culminating in the inevitable "rally at the square." Every year the suspense ensues over the questions of what the turnout will be, which public relations rumor of a special attraction (Paul McCartney? maybe next year Madonna?) will fill the square with a few hundred thousands, and what these figures will mean on the November Index: Do they undermine the stability of the right-wing government? Do they reinforce the left? And if the turnout is not as impressive as expected, does that mean that people have finally realized that Rabin is really dead, and that Sharon is now prime minister?

Six years later, the yearly reproduction of that far-away rally does Rabin a disservice. It reduces his life's achievements to that square, to that rally and to those final moments, using the parameters defined by the assassin. And what if he were shot at the Kfar Shmaryahu intersection, as the murderer had originally planned? Would an annual mass rally at the junction be considered the most fitting commemoration for the slain leader?

This weekend we saw tens - or was it hundreds? - of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Rabbi Schach's funeral procession. They will not reconstruct this mass entourage next year, let alone the year after. It is the realization of a leader's earthly finality that reflects the strength of a culture and the maturity of his followers, and most importantly, makes way for a new leader to pick up where he left off.

How long will secular Israelis wallow in their grief? Until when will they continue to cry at the square? Rabin surely would have said, here as in many other cases: "Enough is enough!" Certainly his beloved memory must be commemorated, and - since he was murdered in a wave of political terrorism that in effect continues to this day - his memory should also be used to promote political goals. But six years later, there is no avoiding the grim conclusion that the necrophilic cry babies of Labor and other left-wing parties in Israel are politically immature and spiritually lacking. Whether this is the outcome or the cause of the void left by the moderate Rabin's departure is an entirely separate debate. But the endless, tiresome, and immature artifical resuscitation of that dead leader, of that moment and of that rally leaves no room for a new, relevant agenda to fill the void.