Though Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated about a month before my birth, he has always been a very important influence in my life. His transition from commander of the army to champion of peace really resonates with me. I don’t quite know how to explain it, but I always felt a deep, emotional connection to him.
Today, 19 years following Rabin’s assassination, his words, his lessons and his messages prove to relevant, now more than ever.
Here are six lessons we learned from Yitzhak Rabin that we should never forget:
“We must think differently, look at things in a different way. Peace requires a world of new concepts, new definitions.”
For years, Israelis and Palestinians have lived and died side by side in a conflict perpetuated by hatred and inability to meet eye to eye. There are those who advocate for the peace process, a process which has been started and restarted numerous times, without much to show for itself. To explain this quote, I employ an idea put forth by Albert Einstein: it is insane to do the same thing twice and expect a different response. We have been trying to fit this conflict in a specific mold with a specific solution that has not been fruitful in any way, shape, or form. The time has come for us to take ownership for the inefficiencies of the traditional route and propose an alternate, more efficient and meaningful solution to a conflict that has overstayed its welcome.
“We do not celebrate the death of our enemies.”
This past summer raised a series of important, ethical questions for people in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. Sadly, there was a high death toll during this past summer’s operation. On both sides. Sometimes in defending our respective fronts, we unintentionally trivialize deaths on the other side. To deny that there was suffering and loss of innocent life, Israeli and Palestinian, is to deny the sanctity of human life.
“Israel has an important principle: It is only Israel that is responsible for our security.”
Another lesson learned from this summer was that Israel is the only country that has Israel’s best interest at heart. This last year, we questioned the strength of the relationship between the Israeli government and the governments of countries traditionally known as Israel’s “allies.” It is important that we recognize this fact, put forth very early on, by Yitzhak Rabin.
“Israel is no longer a people that dwells alone, and has to join the global journey toward peace, reconciliation and international cooperation.”
With everything that’s been stated above, it is important that we realize that Israel does not stand alone. This may seem contradictory to the statement asserted above, but if we truly hope to progress as a country and as a nation, we must engage in the international realm and demand that we be respected as a valued member of the international community.
“Give peace a chance.”
We often see peace as an end goal, a finish line to cross. Peace. We all talk about it. We all accuse the other side of not being willing to make sacrifices for it. It will take compromise — mutual compromise. It will take time and effort and energy. It has already caused us blood and tears. The time has come for us to cast our affiliations aside, to check our hatred at the door, and to see each other as people, as human beings, with stories worth sharing and stories worth being heard.
And now, for perhaps the most powerful and most important message Rabin left to us:
“We are destined to live together, on the same soil in the same land. We say to you [the Palestinians] today in a loud and clear voice: Enough of blood and tears. Enough. We have no desire for revenge. We harbor no hatred towards you. We, like you, are people who want to build a home, to plant a tree, to love, to live side by side with you in dignity, in empathy, as human beings, as free men. We are today giving peace a chance and again saying to you in a clear voice: Enough.”
Today, Jews and non-Jews alike will take a moment to commemorate the life of a man who was killed for believing in humanity, for working with people whose ideas were different than his, for being a voice for peace.
If there is anything for us to take away from Rabin and the legacy of his life, it is in the last quote presented above: Israelis and Palestinians have both suffered immeasurable pain and suffering throughout our histories. We have allowed that which makes us so similar to drive us apart. We have labeled each other as the “other,” enemies because history told us to be. When in reality, at the end of the day, we are all just people who wish to live our lives in peace. People who want to see our children grow up in a world dramatically different than our own. A world in which young boys and girls don’t take up arms in the name of defense and freedom. A world in which parents do not bury their children. A world in which we see each other as human beings. A world to which Yitzhak Rabin devoted his life. A world of peace.