Banot Nechama, this year's pop music discovery, was not there last year, but this year the group joined Aharon Barnea, Shimon Peres, Aviv Gefen, Achinoam Nini ("Noa") and Sarit Haddad, these memorial rallies' house bands. Last year the writer David Grossman, then a newly bereaved father, was at the podium, crying out against our hollow leaderships, and hearts were briefly stirred. Last year not a single speaker - neither the authors nor the the intellectuals - had anything meaningful to say at the hollow memorial rally for Yitzhak Rabin, which resembled a late-summer Caesarea reunion of the legendary Israeli group Kaveret more than anything else.
The audience was, as always, the same: self-described Ashkenazi, secular, leftist and peace-loving. How good and pleasant it is to stand in the square once a year and feel a part of this warm family, with these excellent Hebrew songs in the background, with the last-minute decision to have the newly bereaved Hagashash Hahiver member Shaike Levy singing "Shir Hare'ut."
For a moment last night, everyone awoke from a year-long coma: Peace Now, the Labor Party, Meretz, Hashomer Hatzair and the Noar Ha'oved youth movement with their blue shirts. Journalist Aharon Barnea once again put on the angry-prophet suit he wears once a year in early November: "We shall not forget and we shall not forgive," he thundered, uttering the slogan that was once the province of Holocaust memorial assemblies.
The cliches washed over the square, the "hope," the "legacy," the "victory," the "peace" - no one knows what they really mean. The square was also awash in white balloons. White for peace. Occasionally one burst, one escaped into the black Tel Aviv sky. A helicopter and a spy balloon also hovered overhead, just as they do over the skies of Gaza, which was never as far from these peace rallies as it was last night. When Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Yitzhak's legacy is alive and kicking inside of us, was he referring to the blackouts and starvation in Gaza that he coordinated? No one spoke of that Saturday. And no one mentioned the forbidden name, Yigal Amir, despite the fact that his spirit - especially that of his newborn progeny - hovered in the air throughout.
The only real applause of the evening went to the defense minister when he promised, who knows by what authority, that "his sentence will not be commuted, he won't be pardoned, and the prison gates will shut him in until his final day."
Yitzhak Rabin's son, Yuval Rabin, who returned recently from a long sojourn in America, also devoted much verbiage to the murderer without, heaven forbid, saying his name: He called on us to be a state of law while at the same time complaining about the court decision to permit Amir's son to be circumcised at his father's prison. How easy to unite against Yigal Amir, the lowest common denominator of the left.
"We promise you: Your way will be victorious," Barak said, coming out of the closet Saturday night. For the first time he uttered the name Annapolis, and even said it contained "a promise" and not "a threat," and wished it success, in contrast to some wicked rumors. That, too, is not to be sneezed at in a memorial and peace rally.
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