Thousands of citizens and youth movements members gathered on Sunday, October 17 to participate in discussion circles on the topic of K’dushat Hachayim the sanctity of life – in Israeli society, as part of the annual “Asefa Yisraelit” (Israeli Assembly) marking 26 years since the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. 

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The event, which took place in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, featured prominent figures who were on the front lines in the struggle to preserve the value of human life in the past year. These includes doctors and senior health officials who have led the fight against coronavirus: Prof. Siegal Sadetzki, Prof. Gili Regev-Yohai, Dr. Itai Pessach and Prof. Shmuel Shapira, former director of the Israel Institute for Biological Research. Family members of those who died in the deadly trampling at Mount Meron were also in attendance, including Shai Tzarfati, whose father was killed in the disaster, and Rabbi Fogel, who lost his late son Yedidya z”l. 

Other attendees included Adi Guzi, who saved domestic violence survivor Shira Isakov from an attempted murder by Shira’s husband; Nawal Abu Amer, the principal of the Al-Jawarish School in Ramla, who fights violence in Arab society; Dan Varshavsky, head of the National Committee of the Union of Crane Workers, and Oz Dror, vice president of the Or Yarok Association for Safer Driving in Israel.

This year's topic was "the sanctity of life," in the light of a difficult year. (Photo: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

In a statement released ahead of the event, the organizers wrote: “Towards the end of a year in which a variety of events threatened to undermine the basic right of Israeli citizens to live in security, has there been a depreciation of the value of life in Israel? Have we become numb to assaults on human life as a result of the overwhelming number of events that have emotionally affected us? At the heart of the discussion will be the heavy question of whether we did everything we could to preserve and save lives.”

The Asefa Israelit is in its’ fifth consecutive year, and is organized by the ‘Remember the Murder, Stand Up for Democracy’ coalition made up of youth movements, social justice organizations and the Rabin Center. 

The 2019 Asefa Israelit, pictured from above (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The purpose of the project is to bring together different sectors of Israeli society to discuss contemporary controversies in Israeli democracy, as a way of marking Rabin’s assassination and the deep fractures in Israeli society that were exposed in its wake.

The event in Rabin Square began at 5:00 pm, with hundreds of round table discussions of all youth movements in Israel, bringing together youth from diverse backgrounds: religious and secular, Jews, Arabs and Druze. At 6:00 pm, the discussion circles for adults began, led by the guest speakers. The closing ceremony of the event began at 7:30 pm.

Youth movement members meet in the dialogue circles at the 2021 Asefa Israelit. (Photo: Asefa Israelit)

In the leadup to the main event in Rabin Square, another 30 Asefot Yisraeliot were held throughout the country, including in Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva, Haifa, Rehovot, Petah Tikva, Nof Hagalil and more. All events were open to the general public and details can be found on the meeting’s website (in Hebrew):

The ’Remember the Murder, Stand Up for Democracy‘ coalition was established in 2015. Its members include Dror Israel, HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed, HaMachanot HaOlim, Bnei Akiva, HaTzofim, HaShomer HaTzair, Maccabi Tzair, Betar/HaNoar HaLeumi, HaIchud HaChakla’i, the Council of Youth Movements in Israel, the Rabin Center, and more.

This article was translated to English by Benji Sharp.