Neither Here nor There

The town square was filled, almost filled, with people last night, but it was still empty and hollow. People just gathered for a few speakers and singers, but it's doubtful any of them knew for sure why they had bothered to show up.

What was it all about? It wasn't clear if it was a protest rally, a political rally, a memorial gathering or none of the above. A sector of the population that was defeated some time ago gathered again for an evening of words and song. How good it is to dwell together. The sound and the musical arrangements were superb. Some of the speeches weren't bad either.

But if at that same spot 16 years ago everyone knew precisely why they were there, last night the question was left hanging in midair over Rabin Square. Five years ago, the words of newly bereaved father David Grossman resounded here. A year ago, it was the turn of artist Yair Garbuz, who sounded the alarm. Last night, disturbingly, was neither here nor there. A group of teenagers in blue youth-movement shirts stood munching on pizza while their friends swayed to the music of Danny Sanderson.

Another part of the crowd lit candles, palely echoing that night's candles, which have gone out long ago. Three of the youth-movement girls made statements. One of them quoted Rabin's words after the massacre at the Cave of the Patriarchs. She only forgot to mention that Rabin wasn't brave enough to evacuate the Jewish settlements in Hebron that bitter night, as he would have done had he really been a man of peace, as he has been portrayed since then.

But peace almost completely disappeared last night - at least from the posters displayed at the rally, apart from those held up by Peace Now, whose glory is also a thing of the far past. Sixteen years ago, peace was still in the air here, in all its hope and vitality. Instead, they spoke last night about democracy, also a crucial issue these days. But the talk was fluttering, without rage or any other emotion.

The police went through everyone's belongings, to be on the safe side, unlike the social protest rallies during the summer. They must have their reasons. Peace has been lost, even the talk about it has run out. Now democracy is threatening to rupture.

Rabin's assassin, Yigal Amir, didn't murder peace - as people say - but he opened cracks in the regime, which have widened increasingly since the murder.

I loved Yitzhak Rabin, covertly. I used to work with Shimon Peres, Rabin's bitter rival in those distant days. I doubt Rabin would have liked the rally last night. Members of his family, at any rate, weren't on the podium. They too had their reasons.