22 years later – what did we learn (and forget) from Rabin’s assassination?
Where were you on the day Yitzhak Rabin was murdered?
This is a question every Israeli can answer. We all remember that night, November 4, 1995. A big rally took place in the heart of Tel-Aviv, under the title “Yes to peace, No to violence.”
In his speech there, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin talked about his heart’s desire for peace with our neighbors. He talked about his 27 years in the Israeli army, during which he fought hard when he knew there was no chance for peace. “Now,” he said as the crowd cheered, “there is a chance for peace.”
Not everyone agreed with Rabin. Some thought he was willing to give too much for peace, others believed we shouldn’t even talk to our enemies because they didn’t want peace, and even politicians from the opposing parties (our current PM Netanyahu among them) ignited incitement against Rabin.
With Israel being a democracy, everyone was allowed to speak their mind, even against the government’s policy and even against the Prime Minister itself. It took one man, one gun and three bullets to put an end to this democratic discourse.
Yigal Amir, a Jewish Israeli, lurked in the shadows, waited for Rabin to finish his speech and head back to his car, and changed us all forever. He took another man’s life, just because he disagreed with his political view, and did not believe he was doing right by the people of Israel.
I was only five then, but I remember exactly where I was in that moment that changed Israel’s history. I was lying in my parent’s bed as they were watching the rally on the news.
I remember my father gasp, my mother cry and both of them trying to comprehend the announcement made on the “Breaking News” broadcast. One moment he was up on stage, speaking of how “Violence erodes the basis of Israeli democracy,” and the next he was rushed to the hospital where he died soon after.
We all remember where we were that day, but sometimes it seems like we forget, just as easily.
Today, we mention 22 years to this important night in Israeli history (and the history of democracy.) Tonight, 85,000 people gathered in what is now called Rabin Square, where that rally took place 22 years ago.
But instead of talking about the core values of democracy, instead of talking about violence and bullying and the consequences of incitement, this gathering took a political turn. It wasn’t about peace, it was about political parties and their agendas, right against left.
This is the result of 22 years of slowly forgetting what this day is all about – the murder of our Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin. For 22 years, instead of talking about violence, incitement and democracy, we let this day turn into a day commemorating Rabin the person, which led to a political fracture between left and right parties, instead of a consensus around this day and the importance of remembering and commemorating it.
Israel is almost 70 years old and still fights for its right to exist. 70 years after our home was founded, we still haven’t been able to reach the desired peace, with our enemies and between each other.
Just like 22 years ago, we all want peace, but unable to agree on the way to achieve it. Some of us support our current Prime Minister and his ways, others think he is making every mistake possible.
Sometimes, we lose our ways and let politics define us and our relations with one another. But when we let it happen, we leave the gate open to history repeating itself.
It is so hard out there, in this hostile world or ours. Which is why we all must always remember November 4, 1995. We have too many enemies outside for us to turn against each other. We must remember the democratic values upon which our country was founded.
22 years later, we haven’t been able to achieve the peace Rabin longed for, but we can maintain peace from within, by remembering the day he died, remembering why, and not let democracy die after all.