At his speech at the United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Netanyahu said “Our peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan continue to be anchors of stability in the volatile Middle East”. The day after, my friend Anna and I visited the center that advances the legacy of one of the men who dedicated his life to those anchors, The Yitzhak Rabin Center.
Visiting the center I remembered an episode during my role as leader in the Zofim, the Israeli Scouts movement. I was responsible for leading a peulah (an activity) to a group of early secondary school pupils on Rabin’s memorial day.
At the end of the peulah, during which we talked about Rabin’s assassination and the issue of incitement, one of the students asked me: “Why is there a day dedicated to Rabin and not to other prime ministers?”.
Following this question I organised another peulah. This time not about Rabin, but about a kid, whose fantasy name I gave was Barni. I told the kids Barni was a scout and that he was being bullied by other kids. While most of the other scouts did not partake in the bullying, nevertheless they did not do anything to stop their fellows from abusing Barni.
Thus, I explained to everyone that similarly, the purpose of Rabin day is not only to promote the legacy of such path-breaking and visionary Prime minister, but also to ensure we learn fundamental lessons from his assassination so to shape Israel’s future for the better. At the end of that peula, the same student who asked me about the sense of holding a memorial day told me he had eventually understood why Rabin’s assassination should be commemorated.
Coming back to my visit, the Rabin Center seems to be designed exactly to answer that pupil’s question. The center presents Yitzhak Rabin’s remarkable life and tragic death, pivotal elements of the history of Israel, whose impact must not be ignored or forgotten lest the risk of such shattering events recurring.
The centerpiece of the Yitzhak Rabin Center experience is The Israeli Museum. Comprised of nearly 200 short documentary films, visitors explore the history and building of the State through exhibit halls, each focused on historical turning points of the country’s development. The exhibits present the conflicts, social challenges and dilemmas the country faced, as well as its successes. Along the inner corridor and interwoven with the exhibits’ narratives is the life story of Yitzhak Rabin, the connecting thread in the country’s history and development.
The Center’s educational workshops aim to instill those values of the Center to every student, soldier, and young Israeli citizen from every sector of society. The seminars formed invaluable, enriching experiences for the 12,000 Israeli high school students and 13,000 IDF soldiers who participate in them each year. Participants in the educational programs from all around Israel learn to see Rabin as a role model of leadership for his unrelenting belief in social responsibility alongside his beliefs in peace and security. They gain an appreciation of their own role in promoting well-being and unity of the Israeli people. The interactive workshops bring to life key issues for young leaders of living in democracy, forming identity, taking responsibility, protecting freedom of expression in a pluralistic society.
The Center’s mission is to ensure that the vital lessons from Yitzhak Rabin’s personal history are actively remembered and used to shape an Israeli society and leadership dedicated to open dialogue, democracy, Zionism and social cohesion.
In this setting, one can also learn about Menachem Begin, a leader from the opposite side of the political spectrum (Likud), this despite the existence of a Begin center. The reason is because, political differences aside, Begin laid one of those aforementioned “anchors” in this unstable region: In 1979 he signed the Peace treaty with the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. That helps anyone realize men of vision striving for peace, including the Former President and recently departed Shimon Peres, go beyond do not remain tied to their political divisions.
In conclusion I warmly recommend to people who want to learn about Israel and its political mosaic to visit the Rabin Center. I also recommend Israelis from all sides of the political landscape to visit the center because I believe that to formulate an opinion, you must be familiar with our history and its different narratives. If anybody wonders why, my answer would be the same as when that young student asked me the sense of Rabin day: collective responsibility.