Heal the rifts

We must recognize that it's not enough to ignore the rifts exacerbated by Rabin's assassination.

October 23, 2007 00:30
3 minute read.
rabin 88

rabin 88. (photo credit: )

The Prisons Service has decided not to allow convicted assassin Yigal Amir to attend the circumcision of his son, expected to be born in the coming days. His wife, Larissa Trimbobler, ever the provocateur, is reportedly seeking to induce labor so that the child will be born on Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination according to the Hebrew calendar. Trimbobler claims that Amir is not a murderer, but that he "sacrificed himself for his people." At least she seems to acknowledge that Amir did indeed murder Rabin. According to a poll published in Ma'ariv this month, 28 percent of the public and 46% of the religious public believe Amir is not guilty of killing Rabin. The same poll found that 26% of the general public and 42% of the religious population support freeing Amir by 2015, and that 32% generally and 57% among the religious community think he should be allowed to attend his son's circumcision ceremony. At the same time, 59% of the general public and 32% of the religious population say Amir should never go free. They are right, but why are these numbers not much higher? We cannot vouch for the accuracy of this poll, especially given that some of the results strain credulity. Perhaps most disturbing is the apparently significant difference between the views of those who identify themselves as religious and the public as a whole. While it is true that religiously-observant Israelis tend more to the right side of the political spectrum, and further that this group has a particularly low level of trust in the government, it should not follow that this public has disproportionate sympathy for Yigal Amir. Indeed, the Makor Rishon newspaper reports that right-wing members of Knesset claim that "only lunatics and disturbed individuals" favor Amir's release. We agree that it is completely inappropriate to tar large groups of people, based on their place in either the religious or political spectrum, with sympathy for Amir or his horrendous act. Furthermore, it is fair to say that the tendency of some on the left to do just that may well deter the other side from showing that it detests Amir, since these groups resent attempts to implicate them in the assassination of the prime minister. Yet whether or not an accusing finger from the opposite ideological camp makes it harder to do so, the disturbing poll results seem to indicate that religious figures should more vocally share their views, namely that Amir's act was a colossal desecration of God's name. This is the view that is taught in state religious schools, which hold memorial ceremonies for Rabin just as in secular schools. Many secular Israelis may not be aware that religious Jews still fast in mourning of the assassination by a Jew of Gedalya ben Ahikam, the Jewish governor appointed by Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar. So it is not just murder that is an anathema to the religious and secular publics alike, but in particular the political murder of a Jewish leader by someone claiming to be a religious Jew. Year after year, our society does an admirable job of remembering Yitzhak Rabin, whose life not only reads like the history of Israel, but who played a central role in so many eras and arenas of that history. This is as it should be. Yet 12 years later, we still have not dealt with the accusing finger aimed from one part of society at the other, and the bitter silence from the accused sectors in response. There are no magic solutions to this rift. Fortunately, there are places - aside from deliberate dialogue efforts - where people meet across ideological and religious divides, such as the IDF. Yet in general, our society is structured to deepen the separation between sectors. Perhaps it is necessary to reexamine, for example, the division of state schools into religious and secular systems, thereby all but ensuring that our children grow up not knowing an entire swath of their society, and regarding the other world as alien. We hope that 12 years from now more progress will have been made on this front. Time may heal, but not automatically. There is work to be done, and that work begins with the recognition that it is not enough to ignore the rifts exacerbated by Rabin's assassination, or to hope those rifts will go away on their own.

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