18 Years After Yitzhak Rabin
My first memory of being taught of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination was during the summer of 2006 as a camper in the Hebrew-immersion program at Olin-Sang-Ruby-Union-Institute. Our counselors spoke almost exclusively in Hebrew, bringing Israel to us in a way we’d never experienced before. One of the many ways we learned Hebrew was through Israeli songs. One particular morning, we were reading and translating “Shir LaShalom,” a song that calls on us to sing loudly for peace in the town square instead of whispering a prayer.
When we finished translating the song and sang through it once together, one of our Israeli counselors asked if we had ever heard the song before. When we answered no, he told us of the songs popularity in Israel, especially among youth, and then talked about the day Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had sung it with Miri Aloni on stage at a peace rally. It was at that rally on November 4, 1995 that Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated at age 73 by a man who disagreed with the Oslo Accords the Prime Minister had signed in 1993. Our counselor told us of the moment he found out about the Prime Minister’s assassination, how he remembered his parents crying at the news, and the deep state of mourning that spread throughout the country. It struck me how much his memories of Prime Minister Rabin’s assassination reminded me of the stories my parents told me about remembering the news of President Kennedy’s assassination and funeral.
Today, on the 18th anniversary of Prime Minister Rabin’s assassination, my counselor’s story and connection to Shir LaShalom have stayed in my mind. A few weeks ago, on the Hebrew anniversary of Rabin’s death, tens of thousands of people gathered in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv for a rally. Yonatan Ben-Artzi, Rabin’s grandson, spoke at the rally and asked Prime Minister Netanyahu to bring peace to Israel, saying “This will not be easy, and certainly will not always popular. But history shows that leaders’ [merits] are tested in unpopular times. I believe this is your time.” As a new round of talks between Israel and the Palestinians move forward, Ben-Artzi’s wish for the future is reminiscent of the hopeful attitude many held after the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993. When Prime Minister Rabin visited Washington to endorse the peace deal in 1993, he said, “We have come to try to put an end to the hostilities so that our children, our children’s children, will no longer experience the painful cost of war.”
While I am not old enough to remember that fateful November day, I hope I will be able to tell the next generation where I was and what I was doing when a new peace deal was announced.
Image courtesy of Jewish Journal