Yesterday morning, my cohort boarded a bus at 7:45AM and headed off to the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv. I didn’t know who Rabin was when I was growing up—the only death I clearly remember from the 1990’s was Princess Diana’s—and I only first heard about Rabin during my Birthright trip last year. My country has had its own political leaders assassinated, although they were all before my time.
After leaving the Yitzhak Rabin Center, my cohort, along with the Fellows from Be’er Sheva and Beit She’an, headed to Rabin Square. While I was walking around Rabin Square after a two-hour lunch break and trip to the shuk, I began to think about what had transpired through my head when I was in this place of beauty last July. I only had one emotion—love. Love for Israel, love for Birthright and the love for the boy in my Birthright group that would never be mine. I so clearly remember the pizza we shared with the two female soldiers in our group, how the boy offered to get me a drink, how I resisted the urge to play “footsie” with him under the table and how he helped me stand up because my foot was still busted from hiking in the Golan Heights. But as much as I remember the love, I remember pain as well.
*Fountain in Rabin Square, Birthright, July 5th, 2012*
Our Birthright guides had assigned us the task of asking a few different people in Rabin Square where they were when Rabin was assassinated in 1995 and what their thoughts were on him. We heard interesting and different opinions from both the old and the young. While the majority of my group had their parents grow up during various assassinations throughout history, my generation has never known something like that. We have grown up with wars of course, but for the presidents we do remember—Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and now Barack Obama—we know that they have never been harmed. That doesn’t mean we aren’t ignorant enough to believe that it could never happen sometime.
I’m an American. I will never consider myself an expert on Israeli politics. I will never consider myself an expert on American politics, although I used to believe I was. I can’t give a lot of answers about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because I don’t know everything about it. I can say that what happened to Rabin was horrific. The irony of being assassinated for promoting peace is, I’m sure, not lost on many. But as I said, I’m an American. I am not Israeli and cannot give an opinion on something that I don’t feel I have the right to say much about. I was six-years-old when Rabin was murdered and even if I had heard something about it, as an American child, my biggest concern was running around outside and then going into the house to watch Rugrats.
Going into school today, I stirred the milk into my coffee using the plastic spoon that was lying in the sink outside of the Teacher’s Lounge. The spoon does the job and I use it because I keep forgetting to bring one of my own. It’s been passed around from various teachers. We’ve used it to stir coffee and tea for who knows how long. I drank my coffee as I noticed the big picture of Rabin against one of the walls. It wasn’t there last week. I put my mug down on the table and thought to myself, Here’s this man who wanted peace. He was a leader. Some viewed him as a traitor.
I used to work in politics a few years ago, until I realized that it was nothing more than a popularity contest. I saw firsthand what happened when politicians spoke about their ideas that were not popular. They were never murdered, but they were heavily criticized. It takes a strong backbone and charismatic authority to lead the masses. This is hard to obtain, but from what I know about Rabin, he seemed to posses these traits. But again, I am not Israeli and my scope is severely limited.
People talk about who Rabin was. Maybe they should talk about who he is. Some people might say that there is a period on the long sentence that was his life. People didn’t edit their words back then, and those are the words that dangled off of their fingertips. He is. He still is.
I’ve heard that Israel was never the same after Rabin’s assassination. I know that America was never the same after September 11th, 2001. But I know that Israel has tried to move on. She slowly builds Rabin’s legacy up in Her imagination. Rabin will live for eternity in Israel’s smile, eyes and heart. The man who pressed for understanding is not really gone. Life may obey the laws of conservation, but nothing is really, completely lost. Rabin will forever exist as a story etched in Israel’s soul. He will.
*Fountain in Rabin Square, October 13th, 2013, fifteen months after the first picture was taken.*