Steering clear of the controversy surrounding the alternative Remembrance Day ceremony that took place on Tuesday, the Yesh Gvul movement held its 21st annual alternative torch-lighting ceremony on Independence Day.
Hundreds gathered in front of the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem to honor prominent individuals who “dedicate their time and energy to lighting up the dark corners of Israeli society and politics, today and always.”
Founded in 1982 in the shadow of the First Lebanon War, Yesh Gvul attempts to provide support to conscientious objectors and “refuseniks”: Israelis who object to all or some forms of service in the IDF.
Among the 12 torchlighters were former Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal- On, asylum-seekers from Darfur and Eritrea, Hagit Sigawi, who is a leader in the campaign for more public housing, and human rights activist Buma Inbar, a bereaved father who works toward coexistence and reconciliation with Palestinians.
Inbar initiated the first alternative Remembrance Day ceremony in 2006, but stopped attending it in recent years, having become disillusioned with the grandiosity of the event and the place it has garnered in the public eye.
During his speech at Thursday’s alternative torch-lighting ceremony he said that the opportunity he was given to light a torch and speak feels to him like closure. Although the audience had probably expected him to speak about his personal work in human rights, he instead read a letter aloud to his son Yotam, who was killed in Lebanon in 1995.
“I accepted the invitation [to light the torch] with mixed feelings,” Inbar told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. “I was conflicted mainly because I am vocally opposed to refusal [of IDF service].
“[However], especially this year with the presence of the asylum-seekers, I understood that this ceremony contains more of the ideology and the messages I want to see my country have [than other ceremonies].”
The torch-lighting ceremony was run on a tight budget. As there were no chairs, audience members had to stand around the stage. But for Inbar, this felt much more appropriate than the alternative Remembrance Day ceremony, or, for that matter, the official torch-lighting ceremony at Mount Herzl.
“Compared to the alternative Remembrance Day ceremony with all its glorification and thousands of attendees, this ceremony, in its simplicity, focused more on substance – messages that touch on human rights in relation to the end of the occupation, peace, and the refugees,” Inbar said.
At the end of the ceremony two torches remained unlit, and children from the audience were called upon to light them.
“The country belongs to the youth,” Inbar told the Post. “The presence of these children and the way they kindled the torches moved me so much. [It gave me] hope that we will truly turn on the light, and get to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”