On Saturday Novermber 4th, Darkenu and the Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS) brought 85,000 Israelis to Rabin Square for the largest Rabin Memorial rally in a decade.
When we decided to lead the rally this year, we knew we are going to do it our way, to protect and champion Rabin’s legacy and values, but do it the Darkenu way, meaning it will need to allow a larger part of Israel (not just the left) to feel included.
When we started our Pre-rally campaign “On Nov 4th We Remember – We Are One People” we created a huge public discussion. The hard-left hated the campaign. They said we are playing into the hands of the right, “whitewashing” the murderers, that it was a political assassination and therefore it should be a political rally; that we are ignoring the peace legacy of Rabin – and that in fact, we are not one people. The far-right said that it’s a fraud, we are trying to trick the right-wingers who are coming to speak at the rally, and will then accuse them and make them apologize for the assassination.
As is often the case in Israel, the centrist majority was mostly quiet, but we did get a lot of feedback from the moderate left and right that we are doing the right thing, and that for the first time new people are coming, that we convinced many people that this time it’s going to be different and that it’s inspiring. It’s hard to explain how much of a risk this was. Would these other audiences, people who do not see this as being their place, come? Would the left come? If the left were angry, and the new audiences still alienated by our divisive political system, would we be speaking in front of an empty square? Then, at 7:30 pm on Saturday, the square suddenly began to fill. In no time, there where 85,000 people there, including 75 busloads of people that we brought from all around the country, and we knew we were right. The rally was beautiful: inspiring, moderate speeches by a wide-spectrum of speakers.
The rally and the discussion around it was so important in the process we are trying to lead: It showed the need for a bridge between moderate right and moderate left; it showed that a large moderate camp DOES exist, that is too often not heard from, but once mobilized it will respond to a call to action: it will fill Rabin Square. The Israelis came that night to remember Rabin and the incitemnt that led to his murder. They came to protest against incitement, violence, racism, extremism and most of all: against the artificiall segmentation that is weakening the moderate majority of Israelis, and hiding the fact that most of us agree on the rules of the game, agree on the core values and on a shared vision for Israel.
If we unite moderates from both sides, if we focus on what unites us rather than what divides us, then perhaps we can demonstrate that there is a large camp, the largest in Israel, that is seeking representation from its leaders. Saturday night felt like the birth of that process, and like all births it was both beautiful and painful. But I am certain that what we started last week can transform Israel if moderates unite and do what Yitzhak Rabin always did: put our country, its democracy and its citizens first.