Banot Nechama, this year’s pop music discovery, was not there last year, but this year the group joined Aharon Barnea, Shimon Peres, Aviv Gefen, Achinoam Nini (“Noa”) and Sarit Haddad, these memorial rallies’ house bands. Last year the writer David Grossman, then a newly bereaved father, was at the podium, crying out against our hollow leaderships, and hearts were briefly stirred. Last year not a single speaker – neither the authors nor the the intellectuals – had anything meaningful to say at the hollow memorial rally for Yitzhak Rabin, which resembled a late-summer Caesarea reunion of the legendary Israeli group Kaveret more than anything else.
The audience was, as always, the same: self-described Ashkenazi, secular, leftist and peace-loving. How good and pleasant it is to stand in the square once a year and feel a part of this warm family, with these excellent Hebrew songs in the background, with the last-minute decision to have the newly bereaved Hagashash Hahiver member Shaike Levy singing “Shir Hare’ut.”
For a moment last night, everyone awoke from a year-long coma: Peace Now, the Labor Party, Meretz, Hashomer Hatzair and the Noar Ha’oved youth movement with their blue shirts. Journalist Aharon Barnea once again put on the angry-prophet suit he wears once a year in early November: “We shall not forget and we shall not forgive,” he thundered, uttering the slogan that was once the province of Holocaust memorial assemblies.