My Speech at Rabin Memorial 2019

Twenty-four years ago, on a night that began here in Kings of Israel Square (Kikar Malkhey Yisrael) with great joy and hope and ended in deep sorrow and despair at Ichilov Hospital, I stood a few minutes from here, outside the hospital, with a broken heart and said:

“My country is finished.”
“My country is finished.”
This is how I felt then.

The country we had before the abominable murder will never be the same country.
This evening, the square, whose name was changed from Kikar Malchei Yisrael, to Kikar Yitzhak Rabin, is filled with light, and I say wholeheartedly:

Yitzhak, my big brother, my country has been revived.
Yitzhak, our hero, the country has been revived.
Yitzhak, who liberated Jerusalem, who was a hero of the Six Day War, who was Prime Minister during Operation Entebbe, who made peace with Jordan, my beloved Yitzchak – the country has been revived. Benny Gantz won the elections.

The years have gone by, and we are still grieving.

But tonight, as I stand on the stage with Benny Gantz, the IDF Chief of Staff, a courageous soldier and officer, a pioneer, a warrior and a visionary, I say to you Benny:
The country has been revived.

I had the great privilege of being Yitzhak’s assistant for 12 years. I was an Aide to the Defense Minister and Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office.

Our beloved country rose to unimaginable heights. Yitzhak was a leader, a mentor; a doer who knew how to turn dreams into a reality.

In one night, here in the square, everything turned to darkness. And now, for the first time in twenty-four years – the darkness has turned to light. The country has been revived.
Can we please have the whole square lit up…
And let’s all turn on our phone flashlights.

A memorial candle for Yitzhak Rabin and a light of hope.

To you Benny Gantz I say:
You are a courageous soldier and officer, a pioneer, a warrior and a visionary.

To you Benny Gantz I say:
We have a chance; the country has been revived.
There is a chance that you Benny and members of the Labor Party and Meretz, together with other parties, can unite the nation and bring new hope to Israel.

Benny, this requires great courage and determination.

Yitzhak Rabin had these qualities,
and you too Benny have these qualities.

We can and must bring about change.

Yitzhak Rabin had the courage and ability to make decisions and execute them.

His strength of character and leadership were built on his ability to change the reality in Israel.

He did this as commander of the Harel Brigade in the liberation of Jerusalem,
and as IDF Chief of Staff during the Six Day War.

He did this as prime minister in the disengagement agreements with Syria and Egypt, and in the release of the Entebbe hostages.

He did this as prime minister when he signed the Oslo Accord, and 25 years ago this week when he signed the peace treaty with Jordan.

He stood up as prime minister and declared a change in the country’s priorities.

A real revolution.

In the national infrastructure,
In education,
In industry and technology,
In health,
In the city, in the village and in the conflict zones, for Jews, Druze, Circassians, Arabs and Bedouins, for all the country’s citizens.

A real revolution.

His government worked to significantly reduce gaps.

In the development towns and in forfeited areas.

He built schools and paved roads in the Druze, Arab and Bedouin sectors, and brought growth and prosperity to the entire country.

Benny, you have it, too. You have what Yitzhak Rabin had.

You can do it all.
I know you and know you can do it.
We served in the same Paratroopers battalion a few years apart.

Your father was my counselor on Kibbutz Afik and he worked to establish new towns in Israel.

We are both second generation Holocaust survivors.

We are the children of brave parents who survived the hell and came here to Eretz Yisrael as thin, sick and hungry immigrants, and built something out of nothing.

They were not afraid of struggling.

You too, Benny, fear nothing.

You are not afraid of talking peace with our neighbors, or of reaching an understanding and promoting peace with the Arab citizens who live with us. You are not a belligerent nationalist.
You are pure Land of Israel,
Like Yitzhak Rabin.
Benny, let’s together call for an end to racism.

Let’s together call for an end to incitement.

The Druze are our brothers in arms. But they deserve to be with us in an alliance of life, not only an alliance of blood.
No new laws are needed to explain this.
We have, we all have, the Declaration of Independence.

Israeli Arabs study at the universities of us all.

They are our doctors and nurses in hospitals, they are engineers and builders just like their Jewish brethren. They are pharmacists, bank executives, high-tech people, judges and policemen.
They are Israel’s national team players in football and sports.

They are taxpayers like us.

Enough with racism.

They deserve to be voters, advisers and partners in government as well.
40 years ago, they were ministers and deputy ministers in the government.

In 1992, Israeli Arabs voted in the Knesset to recommend Yitzhak and his government. And this occurred at a time when Shas, the political party of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Arie Deri were our partners.

Benny, you will bring hope and change.

To young people so they can raise families and live with dignity, purchase an apartment, ensure the education of their children, and ensure their safety in this country.

Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin planted the seeds of peace, brought about change.

You, Benny, will continue on their path.

The people here tonight who came to remember Yitzhak Rabin with great love, and with great sadness, love you Benny and want you to succeed.

It is a challenging but doable task.

I had the great privilege to serve the country with Yitzhak Rabin.

Yitzhak Rabin was not afraid, and was determined to bring about change, to work for Israel’s public, and you Benny, are built for this too.
You have great people with you,
You have great friends in the Labor Party, in Meretz and in other political parties.

You Benny, can lead a broad and liberal government that will change the country and bring new hope.

A government that will work toward peace between us.
Heal the rifts, reduce the level of hatred, be a united people in our country.

My personal life and many of my generation changed after the murder of Yitzhak Rabin.

We have grown up, we have grown children, and grandchildren and we strive for a better life for them. A quieter life, a more hopeful future.
Benny Gantz: From this square, Rabin Square, in the name of Israel’s hero, the liberator of Jerusalem and the peacemaker, I call on you, on behalf of hundreds of thousands standing here:

Make peace,
May peace be upon us and all Israel. Peace at home and abroad.

And Benny, I swear – we’ll never abandon you. Don’t be afraid. You have the strength to do this. We’ll always have your back and watch over you.

About the Author
Shimon Sheves was General Director of the Prime Minister's office under the late Yizhak Rabin. He is currently the Founder and Chairman of HolistiCyber, which provides nation-state level cyber security solution.
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