On Sunday night the Yitzhak Rabin Synagogue in Rehovot was packed with a diverse range of Israelis gathered for special prayers to mark the 13th anniversary of Prime Minister Rabin’s assassination. Before prayers began, the nearly 400 congregants from all walks of Israeli life mingled in and around the synagogue. Major delegations of all the city’s youth groups -- from the Orthodox Bnei Akiva to the secular Hashomer Hatzair -- and leading rabbis from all the country’s religious streams attended. The special guest was Yuval Rabin, the late Prime Minister’s son, who recently joined the NIF Board of Directors.
Yuval Rabin (right) sits in the synagogue named for his father, Yitzhak Rabin, who was murdered 13 years ago.
This year's memorial came in the wake of rising admiration for Rabin’s assassin Yigal Amir among Jewish extremists, as well as threats against Israeli soldiers who evacuate illegal West Bank settlements. In September, Prof. Zeev Sternhell, a leader of the Peace Now movement, was injured when a bomb exploded in the doorway to his home.
Yudbet Heshvan – Promoting Tolerance in an Orthodox Context, which promotes openness, pluralism and tolerance in the state religious school system, organizes the annual memorial service for Rabin in the only synagogue in Israel named for the slain prime minister. The Yitzhak Rabin synagogue was established 11 years ago and boasts a congregation of 120 families. Since its inception, the synagogue has held an annual remembrance service for Rabin, who was murdered on the 12th (YudBet) of Heshvan.
Gadi Gvaryahu (left) meets some young people who attended the Rabin memorial ceremony.
“This is the largest annual gathering that we have had so far,” explained Gadi Gvaryahu, founder and Director of Yudbet Heshvan. “I think we prove that despite the major political differences between Jewish Israelis, we can all come together to mourn Rabin and hold a dialogue about the things we all hold dear – Jewish tradition, democracy and tolerance – in a religious and non-partisan context.”
Yudbet Heshvan has established liberal Orthodox schools for boys and girls in Rehovot as well as an Orthodox Youth Movement in four Israeli cities. The movement is also active in mainstream Orthodox schools, and many students and rabbis from the national religious movement were present at the memorial service.
Seventeen-year-old Moriah Sror, a member of the Bnei Akiva youth movement for Orthodox teenagers said: “I was nearly four when Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. It was a great trauma in our family. My parents were mourning a Prime Minister they loved and in the street people cursed them because they are religious and blamed them for the murder.”
Moriah Sror (right) still remembers the trauma of Rabin's murder.
One of many rabbis and dignitaries who quoted from the Mishna and related it to Yitzhak Rabin was Knesset member Rabbi Michael Malchior. “The community here in Rehovot is an example to the entire country. The anniversary of Rabin’s assassination ideally should become a day of national soul searching, in which religious and secular Jews come together to discuss their differences.”
Yehezkel Shaarabi, Rabin’s driver for 20 years and the man who drove the dying Prime Minister to the hospital after he had been shot, said that he had attended every annual memorial service at the Yitzhak Rabin Synagogue.
“There can be no better way to bless Yitzhak’s memory than an evening like this,” said Shaarabi.
Yudbet Heshvan is the 2008 grant recipient of the Gerald Cromer Paths of Peace Fund, established in memory of Gerald Cromer. Gerald was a NIF board member and leading social activist who passed away in March of this year, and who cherished the activities of Yudbet Heshvan.