Let’s go back to November 3
Ten months ago, when I became a member of Knesset on
behalf of the Labor Party, I attended my first meeting of the Labor faction. The
first thing I noticed upon entering the conference room was the extremely large,
ornate and gaudily framed painting of Yitzhak Rabin.
dominated the room and towered above the seats of the party and faction chairs.
In the corner, far less dominant, was a smaller, basic black-andwhite photo,
with a simple aluminum frame, of David Ben-Gurion.
To me, this
encapsulated the story of the party’s decline since the assassination of Rabin.
Both were great and bold leaders of the party, but they have come to symbolize
very different things. Ben-Gurion has come to be defined by what he has done.
Rabin, assassinated, has come to be defined by what he could have done. Between
those two poles, we have wallowed in what could have been, mourning the
disappearance of a bright future that was violently wrested from our hands. We
have left behind the boldness of action and vision that marked Israel’s and the
Labor Party’s can-do spirit.
The organizers of the annual gathering in
Kikar Rabin are considering making this year’s gathering the last. This is not
necessarily a bad thing.
It might be exactly what we need to leave behind
15 years of mourning, and return to the day before, to November 3, 1995, when we
passionately believed in our ability to shape a future for Israel, and in our
duty to do so.– Dr. Einat Wilf is a Labor MK.
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We yearn for a
leadership like his
The echoes from the shots fired at the close of the assembly
ironically called “Stop the Violence” rang in my ears for a long time. In the
weeks before the rally, many suggestions were made as to what to call it.
Yitzhak Rabin was the one who insisted on “Stop the Violence,” perhaps as if he
felt what was about to come.
In 1995, I was a young MK, serving my first
term in the legislative body.
Back then, there were “camps” within the
Labor Party and I belonged to the one led by Shimon Peres. But the daily work
involved was more powerful than any “camp” ties, and one couldn’t help but
admire and even love the man, Yitzhak Rabin.
There was something very
captivating about him, something in his shyness and in his frankness – for good
reason. Even those who strongly disagreed with him admired him. He meant what he
said and he said what he meant. His words did not need deciphering and his
facial expressions were very clear.
Fifteen years after his death, all
that is left is a yearning. A yearning for the man, for a leadership that sets
goals and acts to achieve them.
A leadership that works for change, not
just its own survival. That is the legacy of Rabin, not just “peace,” a
beautiful word that everyone seeks, but the ability to lead, to improve, to hang
onto the wheel of this ship called the State of Israel and guide it.
believed in his own leadership, but his will to lead us to safer waters was
tragically cut short.– Dalia Itzik is chairwoman of the Kadima Knesset
faction.Honesty, accountability and courage
I met Yitzhak Rabin during
his first term as prime minister. I was lucky, as in that period he served as my
reference for university studies at Harvard. Years later, in 1984, he came back
into political life in the Defense Ministry, after some time on the outside. As
defense minister, he was sure that the path to the prime minister’s office was
paved, but he had many difficult years ahead of him yet.
The Rabin I knew
was a complicated man. Ambitious but modest, frank and honest but shy, a man of
great vision but pedantic and meticulous.
Working with him was not easy.
He worked long hours, exhausting himself and those around him, demanding, of
course, high standards and setting the bar very high. I remember vividly three
things: First, his honesty. Politicians don’t excel at telling the truth, but he
was an exception. It was the reason he was ousted from office during his first
term, but it was also his mark.
“We do not lie,” he told me when I first
started working with him.
And that’s how it was.
accountability and responsibility. Rabin knew that if something happened in the
offices subject to him, in the security establishment, in the IDF, in the
Defense Ministry, he would take responsibility. He didn’t try to blur the lines
between the IDF and the political echelon. He knew full well that his position
at the top of the pyramid was a commitment. I especially remember how he took
upon himself, in a dramatic TV broadcast, the failures involved in rescuing
Nachshon Wachsman. No excuses, no explanations for or against. Just “I’m
responsible and I take responsibility.”
Third, his courage, as an army
man and as a politician. Rabin knew how to handle and overcome the most
difficult and important moments and to see the bigger picture. He didn’t have
doubts because he knew the way. That is how leadership is assessed and Rabin is
remembered, above all, as a leader. I miss Rabin very much and feel his absence
deeply.– Dr. Nachman Shai is a Kadima MK and a former IDF
spokesman.An affront to his memory
The murder of Yitzhak Rabin is a scar
that will forever plague our nation and is an event that we cannot ever forget.
The question therefore must always be what lessons can emerge from this immense
tragedy that will better us as a people and a nation. I am confident that
despite his many accomplishments as a military and political leader and despite
how strongly committed he was to reaching a comprehensive agreement with the
Palestinians, Rabin would join in our national dismay at how miserably the Oslo
process has failed.
And while one should never speak for the deceased, it
is quite apparent that his notion of a peace agreement is very different from
what is being spoken of today.
The greatest proof of this is in his last
speech to the Knesset, where he stated that Jerusalem would never be divided.
The notion of ever giving up on these lands that he fought so hard for serves as
an affront to his memory.
As committed as Rabin was to find a solution to
this bitter conflict, we therefore owe it to his legacy that we never allow any
issue, no matter how critical, to tear our nation apart and we must avoid the
mistakes of the past.
Israel must remain a nation and a society that is
both united in its vision for the future and united in support of its ideals and
institutions – for that is the greatest testament to Rabin the man, and Rabin
the leader.– Danny Dayan is chairman of the Council of Jewish
Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.On that tragic night
Yitzhak was determined to find ways to advance peace, even as he knew the
difficulties and threats from within and without.
The difficulties were
not theoretical. He stood before many doubts at home and abroad. He never tried
to sugarcoat challenging moments and never shied away from them. He did not
delude himself, nor his country. He knew that going on this new path involved
serious threats but also big possibilities.
Yitzhak and I knew each other
for 50 years. We had our share of disagreements, some of them in public. But we
also shared a concealed admiration for each other.
He told me that it was
as if we were born with a predetermined division of labor – that it was his duty
to apply pressure and that it was my duty to build pressure.
our first handshake. I will never forget the last moments in our exceptional
relationship before the events of that tragic day, the last in which we saw each
The assembly in Tel Aviv was supposed to gauge support for the
peace camp. There were misgivings. Yitzhak himself felt the waves of hatred and
incitement against him. Pictures of him donning a keffiyeh were circulating all
over the country. Even during an innocent visit to the Weizmann Institute, he
encountered a booing crowd and the event almost ended in physical
This happened to a man who was a patriot, a man of confidence,
a man of peace, a man dedicated to his people. A leader who made difficult
decisions even as he knew that an incomplete peace was better than
On the night of the assembly, we decided that we would step out and
take our leave together. It was a declaration of true unity in the face of
After we stepped onto the balcony overlooking the
square, we could not believe our eyes.
Tens of thousands of youths were
chanting “Rabin, Rabin.” Some jumped into the fountain, splashing around and
Yitzhak was surprised by the excitement, by the fantastic
It was a wave of love from the people. We all got swept up
For the first time, we heard him sing. For the first time, I felt
a friendly, heart-warming hug. It seemed that peace was alive and
Before the end of the assembly, the security men asked us to
step down separately. They told us that they received intelligence that jihad
men would make an attempt on our lives.
I made my exit first. Yitzhak’s
car was parked in front of mine. I turned my head and saw him making his way
down the steps. As I got into my car, I heard some voices but could not make it
out. Before I knew what was happening, the security men pushed me in, and drove
off at high speed. I asked them what had happened. Where was Yitzhak? They did
In a matter of moments they told me that Yitzhak was on his
way to the hospital. I told them to turn around immediately and drive there.
They refused. I said I would get out and walk there myself. They
At the hospital, there was a stillness, an anxious silence, and
endless worry. Eyes teared. Lips mouthed prayers. The hospital director
approached me and whispered in my ear: “I’m sorry. Yitzhak is gone.”
went to Leah and gave her the terrible news. She and I walked together into the
room where Yitzhak lay on the bed. His body was covered but on his face was a
peaceful expression, one I’d never seen before.
I kissed him goodbye.
Leah stayed with him.
I was shocked and broken. Everyone’s faces fell,
some burst into tears.
People started gathering outside the hospital.
Thousands of candles were lit, tears falling into the flames. This nation felt
as if it had lost a father.
Yitzhak was a boy who dreamed of becoming a
marine engineer, a youth who became the youngest commander in the Palmah and who
grew up to be a daring leader who guided his people toward peace.
tears have not dried. The flames have not been extinguished. His memory is not
forgotten. His way is not forgotten.
Peace is our mission.–
Excerpted and edited from the speech President Shimon Peres gave Tuesday night
at the President’s Residence.We are not guilty
It is not easy, as a
Knesset representative of the Right, to write this piece marking the memorial
day for the late prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin. At the time, I was head of the
Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, and we would
meet frequently. Our meetings would start off very business-like but would often
inevitably slide into arguments, in light of our differing positions and
Sadly, as the years pass, my personal recollections of Rabin
become divorced from the public memory attached to the man and to the memorial
For us on the political Right, the period preceding the memorial day
is a time of confusion and internal turmoil. Not due to any sense of collective
guilt, as some would like to claim, but in response to that unfounded, malicious
We are forced into defensive positions by the
accusing finger of the media, unable to mourn the memory of our prime minister –
for even though we disagreed with him, even though we demonstrated against him,
we fully recognized his constitutional role.
Recently, once again, just a
few days ago, those seeking a retrial for Margalit Har-Shefi were accused of
actually supporting the actions of the assassin.
Memorial days are for
mourning and for remembering, each with his own thoughts within the context of
the national memory. Regretfully, I must write this today, as a representative
of a sector: we are not guilty, and any attempt to enforce false collective
guilt is a mortal blow against democracy.
Yes, we organized
demonstrations against him, and we observed the presence of that despicable
small group from which the murderer emerged. We totally opposed their way – the
incitement and the hatemongering – and so we warned the Shin Bet, we warned the
police, we warned other officials, but they did nothing.
That was our
duty then, and sadly, ever since , it has been our duty to mention this again,
year after year.
There should also be severe criticism of those who
unjustly accuse. The inevitable result of this is sectorial fragmentation of the
memorial itself. A significant section of the nation cannot participate in the
assembly in Kikar Rabin, without being confronted with accusations from the
platform. My hope is that over the coming years, this trend will change so that
the Rabin Memorial Day will become, as it should, a day of national
unity.– Uri Ariel is an MK from the National Union Party.Israel
cannot ignore lessons of Rabin’s murder
Ever since Yitzhak Rabin was murdered 15
years ago, even as official Israel and parts of Israeli society have mourned,
society has wasted the tragedy by failing to use it as a vehicle for
introspection, and repentance.
Countries, religions and political
movements need heroes. A tragic hero who died for the cause is even more
significant. Rabin, the tragic hero who died for peace, was coopted by the
Israeli Left as its representative and is remembered by it as the Rabin who
advocated peace and territorial compromise, and as such reflects its political
aspirations only. His death has become a tool both to raise a particular
political flag and attack its opponents. While Rabin’s death was tragic, it
cannot serve as grounds for undermining the legitimacy of his political
Rabin was killed because a culture of political, moral and
religious arrogance allowed some to believe they had a monopoly on love of
Israel and commitment to its security. Rabin was killed because members of our
society believed their national fervor was more important than the duties of
morality. Yigal Amir pulled the trigger; the political and nationalist culture
prevalent in society served as the gun.
If we are to transform Rabin’s
death into a true national day of memorial, it must be separated from sectarian
politics and become a day in which all recommit to the democratic principles at
the foundation of our society, a day in which the relationship between Jewish
nationalism and statehood is reexplored, and a day in which we recommit to our
deepest objectives, as outlined in our Declaration of Independence: to be a
society “based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of
The lesson of Yitzhak Rabin’s death is that unbridled
nationalism and the idolatrous certainty it provokes is something we, too, are
capable of and must fear.
Let us mourn our capacity to misuse our love of
Israel to undermine the moral depth and greatness of our Zionist aspirations.
Let us mourn the capacity of Judaism to be co-opted as a servant for
nationalism, instead of as its source for values and moral excellence.–
Donniel Hartman is president of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.
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