The Square Is Empty

The masses returned to the square yesterday, even if in slightly smaller numbers. And yet the square was empty and hollow. Three years ago the novelist David Grossman stood here, not long after his son was killed in the Second Lebanon War. He spoke then about the hollow leadership.

Yesterday, the square was more hollow than ever. Speeches and more speeches, cliches upon cliches - on peace, of course. With songs of comradeship and love, naturally. Dozens of members of youth movements holding signs with piercing words, such as "Thou shalt not kill."

The exciting piece of news for the evening was that the people, or at least the so-called peace camp that exists within the people, is opposed to murder. Hurray.

The same rally was supposed to take place last week, but was postponed due to the weather. Bombings in Gaza and peace rallies are delayed here because of the weather.

Two balloons stood in the air, one for Labor and the other for Meretz, just like on that terrible night 14 years ago. Little remains of those balloons today, save the hot air inside them. A whole generation demanded peace - as the political slogan goes - but instead made two unnecessary wars.

The teenagers who came to the square with candles after Rabin fell, earning themselves the name "candle youth," are now 30 years old, and some of them have had occasion to bomb both Lebanon and Gaza. So let's just all sing a song for peace.

Whose speech was emptier, that of Shimon Peres or Ehud Barak? Maybe Tzipi Livni's? It's hard to tell. It was a tight match, in which the winner will have to be determined on points. Finally, the president won. "Those who despair do not win and those who win do not despair," Peres said, adding that an imperfect peace is better than perfect war. He also said that peace is made when there is no peace. Finally, he said the next year will be the year of decision, like they say every year.

Only Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, the rally organizers' pet Likudnik, offered the crowd more than dribble and actually said something for a change. He complained that his camp had not been welcome at memorial events and tents, and added some things of value about tolerance and acceptance of different opinions.

Speaking about Rabin's driver instead of his legacy, Sa'ar was the only speaker who looked the crowd in the eye, and refrained from rolling his own eyes to high heaven. He scored quite a few points at yesterday's rally.

Everyone spoke about peace, but no one so much as hinted at the freeze on construction in settlements. Everyone called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Syrian President Bashar Assad to make peace but no one mentioned our own made-in-Israel peace rejectionist, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Peres flattered the invited guests by calling them "the fire pillar of the peace camp," failing to light even one small match. Defense Minister Barak said that "we" - himself included, naturally - are the ones who "continue Rabin's legacy." No one snickered. "Violence will get us nothing," the general of Operation Cast Lead said, receiving applause for the statement.

All of the speakers and the vast majority of their listeners were Ashkenazi. It was only the singers and performers who were mostly Sephardi (excluding Tzvika Pik), while the men who made up the chorus standing in the background of Ovadia Hamama's performance were practically the only ones around wearing skull caps.