Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rabin Memorial Day - 15 years on

Today is the 15th anniversary of Yitzchak Rabin's assassination. Anyone who remembers that dreadful night and the shock filled days that followed remembers the overwhelming sense of pain, the confusion and bewilderment, the sadness, the trauma, the shame. It was an upheaval of the deepest and widest proportions as if an earthquake had transpired within our country.

15 years on, I want to share two thoughts that I had this year.

First, is the fact that even though the radio and TV have dedicated some time to Rabin today, it is not the first item on any of the news channels or websites. In contrast to the initial years following Rabin's murder when the awareness of Rabin's memory and the violence of the assassination was a palpable presence that could be sensed on the streets, in the air, on this day, this year I feel it is in the background. Yes, it is on the calendar, there will be a state ceremony, but the routine continues, life moves on, and everyone is functioning normally.

Is that bad? Is Rabin being forgotten? No! I actually think that it is a sign of the maturity and resilience of Israeli society that we have managed to emerge from those dark days and to move beyond the mourning and the pain. It is evidence of a healthy society that this has moved from the foreground to a quieter place, where it is noted but it doesn't dominate.

Don't get me wrong. I think we need to teach the lessons of Rabin's murder, about the need for care in our public discourse, of red lines that may never be crossed even in passionate public conflicts, and of the importance of tolerance, and an understanding that one must coexist with people with whom you passionately disagree. Nonetheless, the fact that this is less intense, is I believe a healthy sign.

My second point relates to the commemoration and grappling with the assassination within Religious-Zionist (Right-Wing) circles.

With Yigal Amir coming from Religious Zionist institutions, and with the Right wing the most vocal denouncers of Rabin, the Religious Zionist community was under harsh attack in the days, months and years following the assassination. By the Left-wing and media, the entire Right-Wing were labeled as pariahs and murderers in a harsh and unfair stereotyping. This lead to a situation in which the Religious Zionist communities had no way to mark or talk about Rabin's murder. After all, they disagreed with and fought his Peace process. And as for talk about tolerance and the danger of violent rhetoric, the Right Wing was too bruised to express themselves. (see for example, this article - link) For years, I was distressed that Rabin's assassination was barely mentioned in my kids' school.

And to my surprise, this year in Efrat, my daughter's school did organise an extensive program about tolerance to mark Rabin's assassination.

Maybe this also takes 15 years. For the Right wing community to feel that they are not under such harsh accusation, they too can now begin to grapple with aspects of this terrible crime.

One last thought. Yuli Tamir (a former Labour education minister) was quoted today (link) as saying that we need to educate more about the dangers of incitement within the Israeli public discourse. Well, I have one thing to say to Yuli Tamir. The public, just like kids, learn by example. If we wish to lower the excessive, harmful, levels of incitement within the Israeli political discourse, then the MK's should be the first group to tone down their harsh rhetoric, their labeling and their acrimonious speech. Then possibly we will have role models of tolerance and mutual respect in our midst.

If only!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another excellent piece on Right Wing sentiments around the Rabin Assasination can be found at:,7340,L-3972264,00.html