Three thousand Israelis attended the main memorial event commemorating the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv Saturday evening at Rabin Square – the site of his murder, which was subsequently named after him.
This was the second year in a row that the organizers, who are private individuals, sought contributions from the public to fund the event, because no movement or nonprofit group had agreed to sponsor it. They succeeded in raising half of their target amount.
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In his speech, opposition leader and Yesh Atid lawmaker Yair Lapid, the keynote (and only) speaker at the event, said: "We are here today because Yitzhak Rabin left us a simple will: to preserve our country ... We will defend our country from those who try to destroy it from the outside, those who try to destroy it from within. We will defend it from those who try to destroy it from the throne of the government. They will not define for us who we are. We will not accept a lesson in patriotism from anyone. They will not tell us what is the left and what is th right. They will not tell us who is a Zionist. They will not tell us how to be Jewish.
"The killer believed that the laws do not apply to him. This is where destruction begins, in people who think the laws do not apply to them. There were some then, there are some today. So they protested against the government. Today they sit in the government. We did not confront them enough then, in the days before the murder. We learned the lesson. It will not happen to us again. We stand before them today. On the bridges, at the intersections, in this square, on this day, we tell them: 'Enough.'"
In 2018, it was reported that Lapid refused to speak at that year’s ceremony because no ministers from the right would be speaking too. Lapid did not make a similar demand this year, according to the producers of the event.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai was also slated to speak at Saturday's memorial event, but pulled out on Friday after realizing he wouldn’t be the keynote speaker at the event, according to people involved with its production.
Sources close to Huldai asserted that the mayor had another reason for cancelling, namely that the event is affiliated with only one single political party, which is inappropriate in his view. They added that Huldai would have participated if more politicians had been invited to speak, and not just Lapid.
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Meanwhile, sources close to Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh said they approached the event's organizer and offered for Odeh to speak at the memorial, but were refused.
Sources in Meretz also said that the organizers had rejected their offer to participate in the memorial, characterizing the organizers' decision not to include "Arab speakers and leftists, including Meretz," as a "mistake." They noted that while they expect some Meretz activists to show up at Saturday night's rally, they anticipate that far more would join demonstrations held elsewhere instead.
The organizers have been criticized by political and social activists in recent days for not including an Arab speaker on this year's line-up, as was the case in previous years.
Former director-general of the Prime Minister's Office under Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Sheves, said "They turned the rally into a branch of the Yesh Atid party." Sheves characterized the absence of the Labor Party as a "shame," and emphasized that "a rally in Rabin's memory should not be used for a political campaign."
The producers of the event told Haaretz that this year's ceremony is limited in size and that only two speakers were invited. One organizer explained that “Quite a lot of Arab speakers spoke at the event over the years, and this year there was simply no room," noting that this year, "the idea was to have a small ceremony and not leave the square empty on November 4.”
The organizer added, "I hope that all the critics will come to the square next year and organize the ceremony themselves.”
The film “Incitement” ("Yamim Noraim" in Hebrew), about Rabin's killer, Yigal Amir, the incitement that preceded the assassination, was screened at the memorial. Israeli rockstar, Aviv Geffen, was slated to perform.
Event organizers have said that the focus of this year's memorial was to pass this message on to the younger generation, "the generation that didn't get the chance to know the prime minister and his legacy.”