Tens of thousands of Israelis attended a mass rally this week in support of religious Zionism at the same Tel Aviv square where Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was slain.
The event was held to reaffirm the religious Zionist movement’s goals in the wake of a backlash generated by the assassination of Rabin by a 25-year-old religious law student after a Nov. 4 peace rally.
National Religious Party leader Zevulun Hammer issued a call for national reconciliation without capitulation.
“We will not fold up our flag,” he said. “With the rest of the nation we will examine what can be fixed, but we will not give up our principles.”
Police estimated that 70,000 people took part in the Saturday night rally. Organizers put the figure at 120,000. The crowd stood in heavy rain, as speaker after speaker took their turn on the stage.
Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau said the gathering was meant to “expel the darkness.”
Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, a member of the Likud, said bullets should neither bring down the government nor silence legitimate argument. “May we have good luck in our future battles for the Land of Israel and Jerusalem, its capital,” he said.
Throughout the week, members of a number of different streams within the religious Zionist movement debated whether to come to the rally.
Danny Tamari, secretary general of the religious kibbutz movement, said he attended, despite hesitations. “I do not want to run away, and I do not want to abandon my movement in the hands of the right-wing extremists among us,” he said.