20 years ago today Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. That Saturday evening remains a dark stain in Jewish history.
The reluctant peace that seemed nearly at hand in those days now seems even more distant. In fact Rabin's greatest strength was that he did not wrap the Oslo Accords in messianic hopes but in the realistic aspirations of a soldier-statesman and the practical needs of the State of Israel.
In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize he read a poem by Yehuda Amichai, written years earlier in 1955:
God has pity on kindergarten children.
He has less pity on school children.
And on grownups he has no pity at all,
he leaves them alone,
and sometimes they must crawl on all fours
in the burning sand
to reach the first-aid station
covered with blood.
But perhaps he will watch over true lovers
and have mercy on them and shelter them
like a tree over the old man
sleeping on a public bench.
Perhaps we too will give themIn Rabin's world view compassion was apparently a gift from one human being to another. Amichai also participated in the ceremony. He read the poem "Wildpeace."
the last rare coins of compassion
that Mother handed down to us,
so that their happiness will protect us
now and in other days.
...Let [peace] comeRabin, however, was never given to such dreaming and utopian visions. This was his greatest strength. This was why so many Israelis placed their hopes for peace on his shoulders.
suddenly, because the field
must have it: wildpeace.
At the peace rally at which he was murdered everyone joined in singing the famous peace song, "Shir LaShalom." This song was composed in 1969 and became the unofficial anthem of Israel's peace movement and in particular Shalom Achshav-Peace Now.
The song was not without controversy. In fact Generals Ariel Sharon and Rehavam Zeevi (later assassinated by Palestinian terrorists during the Second Intifada) banned the troops under their command from singing it. This partly explains why a bloodied copy of the song's lyrics was found in Rabin's pocket. He was unfamiliar with its words.
His reluctance, his apprehension, and even his distrust of Arafat and Palestinian leaders' intentions on the one hand and his conviction about what was in Israel's future interests made him unique among Israel's peacemakers and leaders. He signed the accords because he believed this was the only way out for Israel, this was the only way for Israel to remain safe and secure, this was the only way for Israel to remain both Jewish and democratic. Here are his sentiments in his own words:
Permit me to say that I am deeply moved. I wish to thank each and every one of you, who have come here today to take a stand against violence and for peace. This government, which I am privileged to head, together with my friend Shimon Peres, decided to give peace a chance – a peace that will solve most of Israel's problems.These were as well his last words. His sentiments reverberate in my heart: "Violence erodes the basis of Israeli democracy. It must be condemned and isolated."
I was a military man for 27 years. I fought so long as there was no chance for peace. I believe that there is now a chance for peace, a great chance. We must take advantage of it for the sake of those standing here, and for those who are not here – and they are many.
I have always believed that the majority of the people want peace and are ready to take risks for peace. In coming here today, you demonstrate, together with many others who did not come, that the people truly desire peace and oppose violence. Violence erodes the basis of Israeli democracy. It must be condemned and isolated. This is not the way of the State of Israel. In a democracy there can be differences, but the final decision will be taken in democratic elections, as the 1992 elections which gave us the mandate to do what we are doing, and to continue on this course.
I want to say that I am proud of the fact that representatives of the countries with whom we are living in peace are present with us here, and will continue to be here: Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco, which opened the road to peace for us. I want to thank the President of Egypt, the King of Jordan, and the King of Morocco, represented here today, for their partnership with us in our march towards peace.
But, more than anything, in the more than three years of this Government's existence, the Israeli people has proven that it is possible to make peace, that peace opens the door to a better economy and society; that peace is not just a prayer. Peace is first of all in our prayers, but it is also the aspiration of the Jewish people, a genuine aspiration for peace.
There are enemies of peace who are trying to hurt us, in order to torpedo the peace process. I want to say bluntly, that we have found a partner for peace among the Palestinians as well: the PLO, which was an enemy, and has ceased to engage in terrorism. Without partners for peace, there can be no peace. We will demand that they do their part for peace, just as we will do our part for peace, in order to solve the most complicated, prolonged, and emotionally charged aspect of the Israeli-Arab conflict: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
This is a course which is fraught with difficulties and pain. For Israel, there is no path that is without pain. But the path of peace is preferable to the path of war. I say this to you as one who was a military man, someone who is today Minister of Defense and sees the pain of the families of the IDF soldiers. For them, for our children, in my case for our grandchildren, I want this Government to exhaust every opening, every possibility, to promote and achieve a comprehensive peace. Even with Syria, is will be possible to make peace.
This rally must send a message to the Israeli people, to the Jewish people around the world, to the many people in the Arab world, and indeed to the entire world, that the Israeli people want peace, support peace. For this, I thank you.
We are today even farther from peace.
May the One who brings peace in the high heavens bring peace to us and to all Israel--and to every being on this earth.
I continue to pray.
I stubbornly cling to hope.
I stubbornly cling to hope.