The committee arranging the annual memorial ceremony for prime minister Yitzhak Rabin announced Monday that this year's event, which will take place in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square at the end of the month, will be the last one held in the current format. One of the organizers, Niva Lanir, explained that "because of the prevailing public apathy, it's hard to mobilize turnout these days, and the committee wants to forestall the possibility that, in the future, the square might not fill up."
Rabin Square has indeed been virtually empty of protest activity in recent years, providing no clearer sign of the public apathy that has taken over Israel. While the French hold mass demonstrations over a decision to raise the retirement age, Israelis no longer take to the streets to protest far more fateful issues. This bodes ill for Israeli democracy and the involvement of civil society - and for that very reason, the organizers of the Rabin memorial ceremonies have an obligation to make every effort to continue them.
Over the years, the memorial assembly has turned not only into a demonstration of solidarity with the slain prime minister, but also a rare event that gathered the remnants of Israel's peace camp together. These annual events sent a resounding message to the public that went beyond condemning Rabin's assassination and perpetuating his memory - and this message must not be allowed to die.
Precisely because what Lanir said about public apathy is true, it is vital to exploit every opportunity to rouse public opinion and spur people to make their voice heard. In fact, the gatherings held in Rabin's honor can and should change their character: organizers must seek to boost participation by the young, for whom Rabin's murder is no more than an episode in ancient Israeli history, and instill in them the lessons of the terrible event that occurred 15 years ago this week.
Instead of giving up on the memorial, it must be turned into a lever for mobilizing public opinion to send a clear message against the ever-increasing, and ever more serious, assaults on Israeli democracy, and to encourage the current government - whose essence is far from what was held by Rabin - to exhaust every opportunity for peace. These are the values the slain prime minister bequeathed us, and we must keep them alive - especially when it seems to the organizers that the passage of time has blurred these values beyond recognition.
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