For many of our generation, November 4th will always carry a special significance. November 4th will always be the day that a part of our naivety as Israelis died. Our internal belief, that our differences could and would be reconciled due to a common sense of purpose, identity and community, was shattered. On November 4th 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by one of our very own. Assassinated by a man that believed in bullets rather then ballots.
Many claim that had Rabin lived he would have lost the coming general elections and that his political agenda would have lost the popular vote. This question is irrelevant and certainly unanswerable. We cannot know what would have been. Yet what can be said is that over the years, people on all sides of the political divide have tried to use Rabin’s legacy for their own political beliefs. Some claim to be his torch bearers, advocating broad political concessions in his name and claiming that they know the way to true and just peace, whilst others claim that even Rabin would today find himself out of touch with the Israeli far-left which hangs on to a fictitious illusion of cross national reconciliation far removed from the reality on the ground.
Yet for me, Rabin’s legacy is first and foremost a pragmatic understanding that believed that we as Israelis, cannot and should not continue to control the lives of another people.
Rabin’s belief may indeed not have stemmed from an idealistic view that believed that we can turn the Middle East into peaceful Switzerland but rather from the cold realisation that over time, the Zionist vision, of a democratic and Jewish homeland, is not attainable while we continue to control the lives of our closest neighbours.
19 years since his assassination and we are no closer, perhaps even farther, from reconciliation. The lack of trust between the peoples and leaderships is evident for all to see. The Palestinians are no closer to recognising the Jewish right to a homeland in the land of Israel, whilst the Israeli leadership is no closer to truly recognising the rights of Palestinians to self determination.
I look at the lack of political courage on both sides and despair. Where is the Israeli leader we need and deserve, someone who understands that one can believe in the right of the Jewish people to their historical homeland side by side with a belief that controlling another people is morally wrong and internally devastating.
While the Palestinian leadership seems more concerned with trying to shame Israel internationally than building their own national infrastructure and dealing with problems at home, why do we as Israelis not demand more from ourselves? Maybe the Palestinians are indeed not ready to make true peace with us Israelis, but does that mean that we will allow them to decide how we envision our own state? Why do we relegate ourselves to such uninspiring, uncreative and fear mongering leaders who provide us with no vision of a future we wish to achieve.
For me, the 4th of November will forever symbolise the need to fight for what we believe is the right path for our small and miraculous nation. The battle is first and foremost internal, a fight for the hearts and minds of our own, the battle to provide an alternative. We must provide hope where others provide fear, dream of what we can achieve and not only worry about those who are out to harm us.
The 4th of November is still an annual wake up call that while the State of Israel is indeed here to stay, there is much work that needs to be done and we are the only ones that can do it.