By Michael Bachner/TPS
The annual Tel Aviv rally marking former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination was held on Saturday night. Just three days prior it appeared it would have to be canceled due to lack of funding from the coalition of groups that normally organizes the rally. A faction in the Zionist Union Knesset party then stepped in to fund the event.
Several speakers and participants at the event sharply criticized organizers afterwards, saying the gathering was nothing more than a “cynical political rally” for the Zionist Union.
Thousands flocked to Rabin Square, after the Labor Party, Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog slammed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for remaining silent in the face of “incitement”, adding that he was taking the possibility of a unity government with the Likud party “off the table.”
But following the rally, several attendees said they regretted having participated.
Rabbi Benny Lau apologized for calling on the public to attend, saying, “I am sorry, it was a cynical political rally.” He told Galei Yisrael radio that “politics taking over the gathering is a disgrace.”
Rabbi Lau, a liberal rabbi who heads a prominent Orthodox community in Jerusalem and is the nephew of former Israeli Chief Yisrael Meir Lau, said during his speech at the memorial that it “should not be owned by a political party.”
Later, Lau wrote on Facebook that the rally he attended had transformed into a into a political demonstration for the left-wing Zionist Union and Meretz parties. “Coming to speak was the only chance I had to stand in front of my friends from the left and ask them to free the event of political ownership,” Lau wrote.
Also social activist Daphni Leef, who gained notoriety as the spokeswoman for the social protest movement in the summer of 2011, also voiced her dissatisfaction with what the Rabin memorial has become.
“I came to [Rabin] Square,” she wrote on Facebook. “I thought I would simply meet people to discuss the rifts in Israeli society, intolerance, and the significance of Rabin’s murder. Instead I arrived at an elections rally for Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni. Balloons that bore no messages, only names of political parties. I am fed up with politics and the cynicism upon which it is based.”