Last week marked the Hebrew anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It has been twenty years since one of the most horrible tragedies in the short history of the State of Israel.
1995 was a year that overflowed with tragic events. I was ten years old; and the feeling that I remember most was the fear in the streets.
There was a wave of terror in the summer of 1995: soldiers, adults and children killed almost every day. This was a first for us: we were not used to being afraid of riding buses. We also had this innocent notion that characterized the country at that time, of “HaKol Yihyeh B’seder” – everything will be ok and peace is already here.
Rabin was the one who gave us the confidence that peace would come. It was he who fought so diligently that we should have this confidence – all of us, Arabs and Jews.
Yitzhak Rabin was like a father worrying about his children. Even when his children did not agree with him or know what they wanted, he gave them the feeling he knew where he was leading them. He was one of the last giants from that generation, the generation that knew how to take responsibility.
In the middle of all of the hate and terror, Yitzhak Rabin, along with Shimon Peres, advanced the peace process that led to the signing of the Oslo Accords at the end of that September – which meant recognition of the Palestinian people and their right to a state of their own within or next to the State of Israel. So Rabin gave control of most of the towns in the hills (Bethlehem, Ramallah, Tulkarem and others) to the Palestinian Authority, believing sincerely that this would bring peace.
Sentiments among Israelis were complicated. Rabin and Peres were harshly criticized by many for recognizing the Palestinian Authority and its right to sovereignty, and for giving support to the number one source of terror in Israel. But Rabin believed that if we concede a little, we will gain much more.
Unfortunately, he was not able to prove himself. Or maybe he just was wrong.
On the 4th of November we heard the three most terrifying shots in the history of Israel – three shots that penetrated deep into every person, three shots that more or less destroyed the hopes for peace and opened the door to anger and hate that haunt us until today.
There are no words to describe what happened that night, no way to describe the feeling of shock. I remember the next day at school, everyone cried. The whole school cried not because a man was killed, but mainly because hope was killed.
It has taken us many years to heal our wounds as a united people, and we still have not come fully to terms with this trauma. Left and Right remain “enemies.” The memory of Yitzhak Rabin will always be engraved in our minds as the murder of peace – even if that peace was only imaginary.