The last few days were dedicated to Yitzhak Rabin and his assassination on November 4th, 1995. Ten years after the murder the country paused to remember the event and the fallen leader. All week television broadcast various documentaries and articles about the man, the final days and the Israel he left behind. Rabin’s death symbolized the end of a particular brand of Israelis for many people, the loss of innocence in a way and a departure from the “brutal honesty” that was so much a part of Yitzhak Rabin’s legacy.
The memorial in Tel Aviv Sunday, the official remembrance ceremony at the gravesite in Mount Herzel in Jerusalem and finally the official launch of the Yitzhak Rabin Center for Israel Studies last night were just some of the main events held.
Notable speeches where given by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who recalled the friendship and personal history they shared. He remembered their differences and the respect he always felt for the man. In September and October 1995, Sharon was one of several political leaders that preached against Rabin’s way and wasn’t addressing any of the hateful posters in the crowed showing Rabin in an SS uniform or wearing the Palestinian headdress. Moral responsibility is not big for today’s political leaders in Israel.
The Clintons were very much an important part of these events and in particular Bill Clinton was notable. The man loved Rabin and his words touched people. It seems like his appearance as an independent non political figure allowed him to speak from the heart and in people responded. He spoke of Rabin’s legacy, the dream of peace they both shared and his personal memories in warm, personal tones. In his speech Clinton spoke to Israeli politics in general as well, he spoke of our ability to accept the possibility that we may be wrong, as a crucial step in holding any meaningful debate. True to so many of the political life in Israel and the Middle East, the conviction and belief in a cause does not cancel out the validity of opposing points of view.
Hillary Clinton speaking at the dinner right after her husband was also remembering the times with Rabin and especially her experiences with Lea. She commended Lea as a wife of a military leader, statesman and politician, acknowledging with a nudge to Bill that it was very hard work. The crowed laughed. At that moment one could understand what made the Clintons so likeable in Israel. The awareness that they were as human as anyone else and that despite their personal issues they continued together has made them a very strong couple and one that can withstand future political challenges.
After Ariel Sharon made his speech he was rushed off by security. Broadcasts were paused to allow him the time to leave and it made me realize what a profound effect Rabin’s murder had. This event, the most heavily secured in the country’s history, was still not safe enough for the Prime Minister.
In a time where corruption lies and deception are rampant in Israeli politics, people like Yitzhak Rabin would have no room. In his final days Rabin was physically attacked and warnings by the security services were shrugged by him regularly. He refused to use the bullet proof Cadillac because he hated the symbol on the hood. He turned red in anger at protestors and yelled back at the crowds when he was hackled in speaking engagements. Never hiding behind heavy security and never shying away from an opportunity to speak to his people. The nation of Israel was his to argue with, fight for and lead and he did it in the most personal way he could, with as little barriers as possible. That was his way, for better or worse.
On the way to the Peace Rally in Tel Aviv on that fateful night security services warned of a definite threat on his life. He leaned over to Lea and asked her if she was afraid. She was but true to her Israeli nature answered no. He smiled and said well I guess we’re going then. He wouldn’t have it any other way and anyone who knew anything about the man would know that.