President Shimon Peres was the first to begin a series of memorial ceremonies Thursday as the country marked the 17th anniversary of the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin by Yigal Amir on November 4, 1995, a day when, as Peres put it, "the arrows of incitement and the spears of hatred, wrapped in the guise of holiness," forever changed the country.
"I remember it as if 17 years have not passed," Peres said about the day Rabin was assassinated. "The smile of Yitzhak, full of happiness. The fearless embrace he gave me on the stage…The hundreds of young people dancing in the fountains. The briefs hellos we said to each other. I also remember the corridors of the operating room at Ichilov Hospital. The anxious waiting by his door. Professor Gabi Barbash pale, whispered the terrible news to me: Yitzhak was no longer with us. The placid face of Yitzhak on the bed. The last kiss on his forehead. The feeling of emptiness. The anger. The helplessness. The loneliness. The personal loss. The national loss."
The President emphasized that it is up to the people of Israel to continue Rabin's legacy and to acknowledge the lesson that can be learned from Rabin's assassination. As Peres lit the memorial candle, he said, "His path, the path of security and peace through economic stability and social justice, is brightened today by millions of candles with whose light we will continue to march. The flame of this candle is a light that joins thousands of candles lit by the people of this nation when they learned of the assassination of Yitzhak. The eyes watered. The candles provided light. The candle of Yitzhak, 'Ner Yitzhak,' is not only directed at the past, but also and especially -- looks forward to the future and to hope."
President Peres then looked up from his paper and appeared to speak from the heart. "Rabin's legacy supports a democratic Jewish state and is against a binational state, even if the cost is that we don't get the entire country. We cannot blur that. That is the truth, and it is my obligation as his friend to say this and to remember this."
At the end of his speech, the President referred to the current leadership and the fact that the only way to live with our neighbors is to live by what Rabin envisioned -- to do everything possible to ensure a democratic Israel, with a Jewish majority.