On Rabin and Memory

On November 4, 1995, I was sixteen years old, home alone, doing Latin homework when the news came that Yitzhak Rabin had been assassinated. I had almost no knowledge of Israel then, but I knew that my mother would be horribly upset. That day at my kitchen table is the first memory I have of Israel as important, or at least, of having the sense that it could make other people emotional. It was the beginning of my Israel consciousness, period.
The class of 2011 was born in 1989. They were in first grade when Rabin was assassinated. It’s unlikely that they remember it, the way I don’t remember the first Intifada in December 1987. We receive these stories in the context of someone else’s memory; delicate, twisted, aged. It’s these memories that hold us back and propel us forward, politically and emotionally.
Young American Jews live in the context of safety in that in general, we lack a sense of vulnerability. September 11th changed this, certainly, but overall, we don’t see ourselves as being exposed or defenseless in the same ways that older folks do, with their memories like long hallways. It changes our relationship to Israel, and to fact and truth; it’s what makes that relationship both unique and precarious.
We can’t recreate the visceral reactions of being there in the moment, and we can’t divorce a person from how they’ve been impacted; there are some things that last forever. Jews have a weird relationship with scars; we want to erase them and become different people, and we also want to make sure the world still sees them. It’s reasonable, given our past, present, and uncertain future, but the question remains as to how to honor and listen to memories, of the living and the dead, and move forward into a new reality.

7 thoughts on “On Rabin and Memory

  1. Such a terrible event. If only Rabin had been at home drinking himself silly that night it would never have happened. If I ever find out who hid his booze…

  2. I am in the class of 2011, I was born in 1989 and I was in the first grade when Rabin was assassinated. I distinctly recall telling a classmate that I knew was Jewish about it the next day. He had no clue what I was talking about. The fact that I did know what I was talking about it probably the more surprising side of it.
    And I don’t think it’s a bad thing that we’re not paranoid.

  3. How many Rabin Memorial events are taking place this year in New York City? To my knowledge there is just one, put on by Habonim Dror and Hashomer Hatzayir.
    How many Meir Kahane memorials are taking place this year in New York City? (this Sunday is his 20th yartzeit) There are at least three. Totally disturbing. And one of them is being hosted by the West Side Institutional Synagogue: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/140343
    Does this bother anyone else? Like, enough to do something about it? Here’s WSIS’s phone number: 212-877-7652. Let them know you’re upset. And post here to let us know you made the call.

  4. Could someone please explain to me why Rabin is such a powerful and enduring icon of the Jewish left? I’ve read a number of his Knesset speeches, and he comes off more “right wing” than Netanyahu does today. I can give examples if anyone is interested, but I suspect the ones who know don’t care, and the ones who don’t care don’t want to know.

  5. Could someone please explain to me why Rabin is such a powerful and enduring icon of the Jewish left?
    Here’s the answer: because he was tragically murdered.
    Or, maybe it’s because he genuinely tried to re-allocate national funds in a way that pleases the Left (and me, Victor.)
    Of course nothing substantial would have been different vis-a-vis the Palestinians had he not been murdered–just go back and read his last speech, from the days of Oslo II. Even more, his daughter has recently said in interviews that Rabin had seriously considered stopping the Oslo process during his last weeks–although how he thought he could do that is unclear.
    How President Clinton can write an op-ed in the Times, claiming that Rabin would have completed the Oslo process in three years, is beyond me.

  6. Rabin’s last speech before the Knesset. I really think more people pro-Israel, pro-Peace Jews should hear from the man himself.
    Ratification of the Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement
    October 5, 1995

    We view the permanent solution in the framework of State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
    We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority. The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.
    And these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution:
    A. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma’ale Adumim and Givat Ze’ev — as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.
    B. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.
    C. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the “Green Line,” prior to the Six Day War.
    D. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif.

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