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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 November 2005, 22:48 GMT
A sombre night in Rabin Square
By Raffi Berg
BBC News website, Tel Aviv

Candles on Rabin Square in Tel Aviv
The rally was about Rabin's memory and legacy
As thousands of Israelis flocked to Rabin Square, the scene was reminiscent of nearly exactly 10 years ago, the same time, the same place.

Then, as now, Israel's left wing came to demonstrate support for their beleaguered leader, Yitzhak Rabin, who months earlier had signed a contentious peace treaty with Israel's long-time foe, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Then, as now, Rabin's political contemporaries took to the stage, extolling the virtues of peace, one after another.

But tonight there was one conspicuous difference: Yitzhak Rabin was not there, a solitary microphone symbolically marking his place on the stage where he spoke and sang a song of peace, moments before he was felled by an assassin's bullet.

Gone was the man who set Israel on a bold, uncharted course, but the peace camp was back in strength to honour him.

Reflective mood

Flags, balloons and banners bearing the logo of the left-wing Peace Now movement filled the square, where many of those present wore stickers and badges sporting Rabin's face and slogans of peace.

Orna Shir
That night they murdered Rabin and they murdered peace
Orna Shir

Huge screens at the side of the plaza displayed a montage of images from Rabin's life, and showed part of the address he made to the crowd on that similar moonlit night 10 years ago.

For a moment, at least, it seemed as if the former prime minister himself was there in person.

But tonight was about his memory and his legacy.

As Israeli singer Meital Travelski sang a melancholy song, My Captain, about the captain of a sinking ship, Israelis, young and old, stood in sombre reflection, some quietly hugging, others wiping away tears.

'Terrible shock'

Many of those who came to pay tribute were not old enough to remember the former prime minister in life, but recalled the night he died.

Itay Gold
Itay says he has come to the square every year since

"My brother broke the news to me," said Itay Gold, who was 14 at the time of the killing.

"At first it didn't sink in and I remember hoping he would be okay, but when I heard he died it was a terrible shock."

Itay said he had come to the square every year since then "to make sure people remember Rabin and his policies. There would have been a better chance of peace if he had not died".

On the ground, flames from memorial candles arranged in the shape of the number 10 flickered in a gentle breeze as children sat nearby, heads bowed, in quiet contemplation.

Yards from the spot where Rabin was shot - now the site of a permanent memorial - Sharon Friedman, 18, said she had come "to ensure Rabin's murderer did not win".

"Part of the problem back then was that people did not care," she added. "There were rallies where people held pictures of Rabin in a Nazi uniform, yet people did nothing to stop it.

"I'm here to show that democracy is still important and to make sure nothing like Rabin's murder ever happens again."

Swelling crowds

As the crowd swelled, people jostled for position while the speakers took turns to eulogise Rabin.

Children at the rally
Many parents brought their children with them to pay respect to Rabin

Two young girls climbed a tree above the heads of the crowd which stood shoulder to shoulder, hundreds deep.

Among them was Orna Shir, 54, a life-long supporter of the former prime minister.

"That night," she said, "they murdered Rabin and they murdered peace. The leaders who followed Rabin have been terrible."

Musing on what the characteristically reserved Rabin would have made of tonight, a tearful Orna said he "would have been touched because during his lifetime he didn't get much love".

"I hope tonight he is looking down on us and sees for sure how much we love him," she said.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the rally in Tel Aviv



SEE ALSO:
Time to revive Rabin's message?
10 Nov 05 |  Middle East
The long shadow of Rabin's legacy
04 Nov 05 |  Middle East
Remembering Yitzhak Rabin
02 Nov 02 |  Middle East
Profile: Yitzhak Rabin
12 Nov 00 |  PROFILES


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