More than 200 people attended a protest rally last week outside of Prof. Ze’ev Sternhell's home in Jerusalem to demonstrate solidarity with the Hebrew University professor who was the target of an assassination attempt last month. The protest, organized by NIF, also expressed support for freedom of expression and democracy.
The rally took place in the closing hour of the fast of Gedalia, commemorating the Governor of Judea who was assassinated by a fellow Jew during the First Temple period. The fast of Gedalia is marked on the 3rd of Tishrei, the day following Rosh Hashanah and during the ten days of penitence prior to Yom Kippur, when the Jewish people reflect on their transgressions over the past year.
Prof. Sternhell thanks the crowd for their support as placards proclaim
"Not another Shalom Haver" (Yitzhak Rabin).
Among those transgressions was a pipe bomb placed in the doorway of Prof. Sternhell’s home on September 25. The bomb exploded and injured the 73 year-old political scientist and historian, who is also a leading member of Peace Now and an outspoken human rights activist. Police believe the motive for the attack was to intimidate those who shared Prof. Sternhell’s ideological values.
“From Gedalia to Yitzhak Rabin, Jewish history has been plagued by baseless hatred," stressed Gadi Gvarayahu, Director of NIF grantee Yud B'Heshvan. Gvarayahu, whose organization established an Orthodox synagogue named for Rabin, came from Rehovot to join the protest.
"We do not know exactly who perpetrated this crime," said Gvarayahu. "But we do know from reading the leaflets that have been distributed to synagogues around the country in the past six months that there is a rise in incitement against Peace Now. This is the result of this incitement and it must be stopped."
NIF President Prof. Naomi Chazan and
Prof. Sternhell are interviewed by the media.
NIF President Prof. Naomi Chazan told the rally: "This is a gathering of citizens who fear for the future of democracy and freedom of expression in Israel. Other democracies have fallen in the past because of deeds like this and we must ensure that it does not happen here."
The demonstrators who came to Prof. Sternhell’s home last Thursday included concerned individuals as well as activists from a wide array of organizations, including civil rights and feminist groups as well as the Reform and Orthodox religious movements. All were concerned that the rising political violence might claim another Gedalia, or another Yitzhak Rabin, both Jewish leaders killed by fellow Jews. The Secular Yeshiva, supported by NIF through Bina: Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture, held a study session about baseless hatred in biblical times.
To strong applause, Prof. Sternhell came out of his home to thank the demonstrators for their support. "We are not afraid and we will not be intimidated," he insisted. "We do not want another Yitzhak Rabin. Thank you for taking these matters concerning our country and people to heart. Our society has a problem and we must confront it. For many years I have taken a certain path and I will continue to struggle for peace and the equality of our society. I am so happy that you are here and thank you for coming."
The event closed when Prof. Sternhell joined the many Orthodox protestors for Maariv evening prayers, which marked the end of the Fast.