As an Israeli: Remembering Yitzhak Rabin

This is a guest post by Roni Levin, St. Paul shlicha (Israeli emissary to St. Paul on behalf of the United Jewish Fund and Council). 

Yitzhak Rabin's signature

In the state of Israel we have many ways to remember, there are memorial days, memorial ceremonies, memorial candles, the memorial corners and the moments of silence. A moment of silence is usually a minute that will open a ceremony, a moment where we stand still to remember, think, and show respect. In recent weeks I have struggled with myself regarding how to represent the memory of Yitzhak Rabin in our community.
For some time I’ve tried to write my thoughts to the community on the subject, and as the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Day approached, it became harder to write. As always, I wanted to share with you my personal feelings and my thoughts but I found it very hard to discuss the assassination of prime minister Rabin.
In Israel you can always go to one of the ceremonies or light a memorial candle, but here, it is difficult to me to find the way of remembering Rabin’s legacy. And as the days went by it became harder and harder for me.
Then, as part of my weekly Israeli update at the St. Paul JCC staff meeting, I was asked to talk about Yitzhak Rabin. I chose not to talk but rather to feel. I’ve played a short piece incorporating the “freezing” announcement of Eitan Haber announcing the official statement regarding Rabin’s death just outside the hospital, and part of Yitzhak Rabin’s grandson speech during the funeral, these two speeches were burned in my memory since I was a child.
While we all stood in front of the St. Paul JCC’s Memorial Corner which was set in the memory of Rabin.
I’ve found my moment of silence. I stood and I thought, I stood and I listened, I stood and I remembered.
I remembered the night when it happened the night of November 4th, 1995.
There was a huge pro-peace support rally, the biggest the state of Israel had by that day, I was almost 11-years-old. I was old enough to understand the importance of the great support of the peace process. I remembered a time before that night we heard only the sound of the opponents of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians (The Oslo Accords). Voices including violence and incitement and we, the silent majority sat quietly, because Rabin went on to represent us in this process despite those voices. I remembered the next morning, my dad sitting in the kitchen with tears in his eyes, it took me a few minutes until I saw the newspaper, and I realized that the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish assassin.
I remembered how I felt during the days after his death, I remembered that I cried for Rabin, a family man, prime minister, a leader.
My brother has told me that he remembered that he and our father watched the funeral together, hearing the voice of Noa Ben-Artzi, Yitzhak Rabin’s granddaughter crying in tears.
Even my brother and my father cried.  
We cried because Yitzhak Rabin made us feel everything would be OK, we did not have to worry. As an adult today I cry about the meaning of the murder, could it be that in the Jewish state Jews would murder a Jew because they have different opinions? Would a Jew murder a prime minister?
You probably know that I’m so proud of the State of Israel. There will always be challenges to deal with, but we as Israelis do it democratically. However, in my democracy, my prime minister was assassinated for a political reason. A Prime Minister who led a peace process. A Prime Minister who knew the way of the army as the chief of staff and chose to negotiate.
This year, I did not organize a big ceremony in his memory, I did not even light a memorial candle, but at this short point when I was standing together with my fellow workers, together we remembered and respected the Rabin legacy. Remembered the past in order to not ignore these voices in the future.
So this week when you walk the halls of the JCC, go pick up your children from Talmud Torah or go to services in the synagogue, take a minute to stop in front of the memorial corner and remember the same man who commanded the Six Day War, and as the years went by he reached his hands to peace.
Think of your personal memory of Rabin as a leader.
I encourage you to think about the legacy of Rabin, how his heritage influenced the State of Israel in the past and the implications of the assassination for Israel and the whole Jewish world today.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)