In the first year of being a widow, I once told my brother that my late husband would have wished that I followed a certain path. My brother retorted that since my husband was unpredictable and pragmatic, it was very likely that he would have thought differently, and anyway, he added, it was a fallacy to claim that I knew his wishes.
It was a disturbing answer, since part of me wanted to cling on to him a while longer, I attributed to my husband all kinds of wishes and desires. Those were no longer relevant, and as my brother was quick to point out, I didn’t take into account the fact that people constantly adjust their opinions according to changing circumstances.
I know that it is not only me, I often hear about adult children who, after losing a close family member, especially a parent, find the energy to go back to school, choose a new career, even get married, because they feel that it is a way to fulfill the wishes, or the legacy, of their loved one.
In my case, evoking my husband’s legacy gave me strength and filled me with a sense of purpose, as I navigated my way in the world without him.
For the last twenty years, people have been constantly bringing up the legacy of our slain leader Yitzhak Rabin. Only yesterday, again, Haaretz published an essay by the author Gadi Taub, in support of Yitzhak Herzog’s ideas about the Palestinian partner and the possibility of two states for the two nations. In order to strengthen his point, Taub summons that legacy: “This is also Rabin’s legacy the readiness to tell the voter the truth, even if it is a difficult one, and to present a realistic direction and not empty hopes”
Although this Yitzhak is the leader of the Labor Party as well, there is no reason to add weight to a political argument by evoking the other Yitzhak’s legacy.
When we talk about one’s legacy we actually refer to our own perceptions, as we continue to attribute to the deceased all kind of wishes and ideas. It could serve as a motivating force or some kind of inspiration, and it helps us fill the void left by the departure of a loved one. But legacy should not become a form of manipulation, misusing the name of the dead person, in order to promote a personal agenda.
For many Israelis it has been hard to overcome the traumatic loss, and to live in a world that no longer has Rabin in it (to paraphrase Dahlia Ravikovitch’s words in the poem “In memory of Antoine de Saint Exupery”: The world is not what it was/ weeds and wind,/ wind and sand./This surely is the look of the world/ that no longer has Saint Exupery).
But twenty later, we on the left cannot remain the helpless orphans any longer. We should not try to find justifications for our present and future actions in Rabin’s legacy. Like all real leaders, he was pragmatic and was not afraid to change his mind according to changing circumstances.
It is high time that we grow up and let Yitzhak Rabin finally rest in peace.
P.S. The link to my translation of the poem In Memory Of Antoine de Saint Exupery: