Yitzhak Rabin
Shalom, Haver
"There is no painless way forward ... but the way of peace is preferable to the way of war." - Yitzhak Rabin

The rally in Kings of Israel Square

THE RALLY FOR PEACE - For most Israelis old enough to remember it, the night of November 4th, 1995, has been burned into memory with unforgiving, searing clarity – the kind of instant, dawning shock that sets in as you realize history has been made before your eyes, and not for the better. In every corner of Israel, hearts stopped at the sound of a government official’s voice, choking back tears as he read what his very soul denied, but his eyes knew to be true. That a leader could be gunned down in cold blood, after standing wordlessly humbled before a living testament to the ideals he had fought for, was a crime beyond measure. But in those few minutes before grief was on anyone’s mind – in those few minutes before any shots had echoed through Kings of Israel Square – a celebration of unparalleled passion had etched itself in time, offering only peace and hope. They are two words without tangible substance, but they are more closely entwined with the human spirit than any other.
In retrospect, it was a miracle in itself that an outpouring of such magnitude came together at all. Several of Rabin’s colleagues had proposed the idea of an anti-violence, pro-peace rally to be held in October 1995 – a resounding response to the increasingly extreme right-wing rallies which blasted the peace process as traitorous, and had even circulated effigies of Rabin himself in a Gestapo uniform, between rifle sights. But with the venomous opposition to Rabin being showcased everywhere the eye could see, even the most confident of the rally organizers were fearful. The possibility of public humiliation, that the assembly at Kings of Israel Square in the heart of Tel Aviv would be a sparsely attended embarrassment rather than a triumph, was very real. Every attempt to promote the rally in the media or to book major attractions had met in failure. When Barbra Streisand turned down an invitation to perform, the organizers’ anxiety in the days approaching the rally shifted to resigned pessimism.
Around 8 PM on the night of November 4th, Yitzhak Rabin arrived at Kings of Israel Square and was immediately escorted to the front stage by rally organizer Jean Frydman, who led him with a giddy excitement that bewildered the confused Prime Minister. Stepping out onto the podium, he was rendered speechless by a sight beyond anything he could have expected or imagined. More than 250,000 people had packed the Square, with many pouring out onto side streets. Even in their wildest dreams, Frydman and others had expected no more than 50,000. For the first time in months, Rabin was greeted not by angry mobs burning his picture, but a thunderous roar of people chanting his name. Almost shyly, he took the microphone – and instantly launched into an address of unrestrained passion and eloquence. Thanking the people first for their support, he paid tribute to all who had helped him in the painful journey to that podium:

(L-R) Peres, Miri Aloni, Rabin


the delegates from the Arab countries who had put aside their differences for peace ; the courage of the IDF armed forces who had sacrificed so much for Israel fighting by his side ; and a fierce condemnation of the extremist violence that was “undermining the foundations of Israeli democracy.” The swelling applause and deafening cheers seemed to galvanize a man whose ideas had suffered constant assault from his own people. Normally known for his stoicism, Rabin broke character to warmly embrace Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, a former rival-turned-ally for peace. Israeli singer Miri Aloni then came onstage to perform the “Song for Peace”. It was a song controversial among those who viewed it as defeatist and submissive, but on this night it seemed beautifully perfect. With encouragement from Peres, the normally gruff Rabin took a lyric sheet and gamely joined Aloni in the song. It was the last time the Israeli people would ever hear his voice.
After watching pop-star Aviv Geffen perform “To Cry For You”, a haunting tribute to “those people who won’t be fortunate enough to see peace dawn”, Rabin congratulated the young musician as the rally drew to a close. He could not have known the bitter irony of his compliment. Escorted by his bodyguards, Rabin walked to the parking lot. Nobody saw the outline of ultra-Orthodox fanatic Yigal Amir hiding under the stairwell. Amir darted up to Rabin’s unprotected back and fired three times. In those few seconds, the hatred that had already claimed so many Arab and Israeli innocents forever ripped away one more life.

Yitzhak Rabin