With all of the fuss and the legend that has come about since the murder of the Israeli Prime Minister who gave his life to bring peace to Israel it’s worth remembering just how hated he was. It’s worth remembering that people would go to the Prime Minister’s residence simply to shout insults at him and his family, it’s worth remembering the hatred that festered and still festers.
After a lifetime of being told Palestinians were the enemy Rabin came along with a different message entirely. It’s not easy to have your own prime minister contradict what you have always thought, to change a reality you have always held. Many people hated him for it, his effigy was burned at demonstrations attended by tens of thousands. Pictures of him in an SS uniform appeared everywhere. People were outraged that he would fathom, that he would even consider making peace with the PLO. After all, this was the ENEMY.
Rabin tried to do more than just make peace, he attempted to alter people’s perceptions, show us a different way of living, to usher in a new dawn of peace. But it just proved to be too much for the Israel of the 20th century.
Wandering around Rabin Square 18 years later I see the youth movements out in full force. The beige shirts of the Scouts, the blue of Hashomer Hatzair and a bunch of others that I am less familiar with. The kids are everywhere and it dawns on me that most of the people in the square were born after his death. They know of Rabin only from history books.
The cafes around the square are full to bursting, I guess a lot of people have chosen to eat cake while listening to the speeches. The Brasserie with it’s cheesecake and cafe Landwehr with its apple tart are particularly full.
The musicians ascend to the stage and play their music, the speakers make their speeches, some get cheers from the crowd others less so. On Ibn Gvirol street, one of the medics standing next to a Magen Dovid Adom ambulance is messing around with her colleagues, laughing and joking while it’s all happening in the background.
Watching all of this the truth sinks in fully.
When Rabin died hope died with him. Those who allowed hope into their lives, allowed it to shape their world, dared to believe that he could succeed, that Israel would have a border to the East, that guards in shopping malls would be there only to search for thieves, were rewarded by watching it die, not by the hand of the man who killed Rabin, but by a society that refused to honor what he died for, what he lived for.
The prime minister elected in his wake is the same man who now oversees peace negotiations of his own. The hope that existed for the future up until the moment Rabin was shot is no longer to be found.
But at least the people sitting near the Square have cake to eat while they wait for the ceremony to end.
I would like to say that Rabin’s legacy lives on. But it doesn’t.
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