A woman lights at candle at a memorial site set up after prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in Tel Aviv, in 1995.
(photo credit: JERUSALEM POST ARCHIVE)
The death of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, from what I understand, was one of those moments that Israelis have engraved in their memories. They remember where they were, how they found out and their reaction that followed. For such a short history, the modern State of Israel can count more than a few instances that carry such significance. Ben-Gurion’s Declaration of Independence, the conquest of Jerusalem during the Six Day War and the sirens of the Yom Kippur War come to mind. But, Rabin’s assassination holds a different meaning for a seven-month-old baby.
Like many other millennials, my first memories of Israel are during the second intifada.
Images of suicide bombings flashed on television screens, interviews showed weeping mothers distraught at the loss of their children. People were hesitant to travel to Israel; they called it a “war zone.” I remember the way that people challenged my parents for letting my brother go to Israel on a gap-year program. How reckless, how irresponsible, their critics thought. I know that I am fortunate for how much the situation has improved and that I have been able to travel to Israel worry-free over the last few years, despite the numerous attacks in recent months. But still, it is difficult for me to imagine Tel Aviv on November 4, 1995, and the hope that emanated in Malchei Yisrael Square on that evening.
I try to picture it. A former warrior-turned dovish statesman at the front of a crowd of thousands of people. Yes, the movement pushing towards an agreement was losing steam at the time, but the songs of peace that hailed from the masses would not have let you realize it. There was tangible optimism that with our country’s brave leader, an agreement was a legitimate possibility.
Yet, I was seven months old. The scene exists only in my imagination. A few moments after that peace rally came to an end, so did its embedded optimism. A bullet meant that I would never hear Rabin’s booming, lowvoice in person. I would never understand his simple personality that was filled with such big thoughts. Despite the fact that we were both alive, I will never feel his presence.
Rabin was a bandwagon and I missed the chance to jump on.
For a millennial in Israel, the easiest thing to do is to be nihilistic. You were young at the time of the second intifada and the most recent attacks only bring back dark reminders.
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It appears to be a natural cycle of violence that originates from an irrational hatred. Why do we have any reason to believe that history will be different for us? Sure, we can imagine what it would be like had Rabin not died. There would be the ceremonial signings and the handshakes on the White House lawn. But, the circumstances were different then and current realities may mandate different policies. So, what diamond in the rough can the children of the 1990s find in the death of Yitzhak Rabin? Do we live in the shadows of his assassination and accept the vicious cycle of violence? Or do we try to reflect the hope with which Rabin illuminated Malchei Yisrael Square on that evening? One thing is certain. Rabin never believed that peace with the Palestinians would occur overnight. He never saw an agreement as the be-all and end-all, it was solely the means to a much greater ends. It is deluded to think that a few agreements with Arafat would have brought that elusive peace that we have sought for so long. Rabin believed in the process, in which we must try and yes, we must fail. But ultimately, we cannot give up until we have added a brick to the edifice of our future.
“Peace,” Rabin insisted to an audience of IDF senior officers, “requires a world of new concepts, new definitions.” Rabin’s challenge towards us, the millennials, is to be the authors of that new world. If we desire an Israel that is free from fear and maintains a strong homeland for our people, then we must define it as such. We cannot allow ourselves to be held captive by the ordinary events and the regularly recycled ideas. If we allow ourselves to dwell in the same avenues and fail to dare to build new ones, we fail the arduous process that Rabin dedicated his life to.
Twenty years later, during these difficult times in Israel, I am reinterpreting the final words of Bill Clinton’s eulogy for Yitzhak Rabin. It is no longer “Shalom haver, goodbye friend”; it is simply “Shalom moreh” or “Hello teacher.” We can impress upon our minds the lessons of Rabin, in which courage is to seek peace and bravery is to find new paths of doing so. But ultimately, the ideas will be our own; the genesis of our future lies in the hands of those who live it. The writer is a student at Georgetown University and co-founder of changethebrand.com.
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