On the Anniversary of His Assassination

I was not a big fan of Yitzhak Rabin. Well, I actually had mixed feelings about him. Part of me looked at him as a hero. More about that later. If I had to sum up what I didn’t like about him, it would be from an anecdote I heard about him when he was Israel’s ambassador to the United States in the late 60s and early 70s.

He was a guest of honor at some sort of non-Kosher state dinner where he was personally given a Kosher meal. When he was informed it was Kosher, he asked a waiter to bring him a glass of milk (it was a meat dinner) — ‘God forbid’ the Israeli ambassador to the US he should be accused of keeping Kosher.

Rabin was from the old guard of Israeli pioneers. True socialists who eschewed religion. The last thing he wanted was for Israel to be perceived in any religious context. This was the ‘new’ Israel of strong and mighty Jews who had little to do with the bible other than its historical context.

God was rarely if ever mentioned in those days by the political leadership. That all changed when Menachem Begin took office. While not observant himself, he understood and respected Halacha and never did anything to violate it in his official capacity. For example, when he attended Anwar Sadat’s funeral in Egypt, which was held on Shabbos, he purposely walked — refusing to ride in a car so as not to be seen as violating Shabbos. Since then God has re-entered the lexicon of most Israeli politicians. It is no longer suitable to ignore Him.

As a religious Jew, I was as proud of Begin as I was embarrassed by Rabin.  Nevertheless, there is another side to Rabin that was indeed heroic. As Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces in 1967, he led Israel to a lightening victory of the Arab countries that attacked it. It was during that war that Israel recaptured East Jerusalem, the Kotel, the West Bank, and Gaza. At the time, he became a hero to all Jews, including me. Eventually he became Prime Minister of Israel. Twice. In his second term he did something else heroic. He and Yassir Arafat signed the Oslo Accords that basically set up a framework for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. That framework would come to be called ‘the 2 state solution’.

Who can forget that notorious handshake between Rabin and Arafat?  A handshake almost forced upon Rabin by then President Clinton. I recall cringing when I saw that. But I also recall agreeing with Rabin for doing it. I felt at the time that if a real peace would come out of this, it was worth the price of going back to the 67 borders — with the minor adjustments suggested which included free and unfettered access to the Kotel.

The predictable response by many right-wing religious Zionists was anger. Anger at the thought that a sitting prime minister would dare give up any land captured from our enemies during the Six Day War. Let alone the thought of giving up any part of Jerusalem. How dare he?!

It was that kind of thinking — and anger — that led Yigal Amir, a young Religious Zionist, a former Hesder student at Yeshivat Keren B’Yavne and the Bar Ilan Kollel to take out a gun and assassinate Rabin for his crime of ‘treason’ during a public demonstration in support of the Oslo Accords. That was 20 years ago on November 4, 1995. Which was observed yesterday in Israel, where Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke.

Amir was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison and has no regret for what he did. He actually believes he saved the country. And is willing to pay the price.

Whatever one’s feeling about the Oslo Accords, there was near universal condemnation of what Amir did. I say near, because there are some right wing fanatics that consider him a hero to this day.

To say that he was not a hero, but a murderer is an understatement. What he did was not only murdering another human being  but — as an observant Jew — it was a massive Chilul HaShem. You don’t have to like what Rabin did to see that.  Rabin was killed for following his conscience. Which was to make peace with Israel’s enemies. As a warrior par excellence — he understood the true hell that war really is. He wanted to end it for his people for all time. He thought Oslo was going to do that. So as much as it disgusted him to shake Arafat’s hand, he did it anyway.

Personally, I think history has proven him wrong — as the return of Gaza has demonstrated. Thank God, Israel did not go through with Oslo. My former support for Oslo has turned into opposition to giving up an inch of land until the Palestinians first show in concrete ways that they will stop killing us! That is about as likely to happen as is Mahmoud Abbas converting to Orthodox Judaism.  They continue to attack Jews at the slightest pretext. In my view, unless things change drastically, Israel has no choice to maintain the status quo.

Unfortunately there are some people that think the status quo is a prescription for national suicide. Obviously, the left thinks that we can still talk peace and take the chance on giving up ‘land for peace’ even now!  Ironically the extreme right wing agrees with them that the status quo is a prescription for national suicide. But they are promoting a different option. One that if it were to take place it would in my view bring a quick end to the Jewish state!

The Kahane Movement is actively pursuing lifting the legal ban on Rabbi Meir Kahane’s followers running for the Kenesset. They are considered racist. What do Kahanists believe? They believe that coexistence with Arabs is impossible. Their solution is to ship all Arabs out of the country. Either they go willingly or by force. Only those willing to submit peacefully to Israeli rule will be allowed to stay — but without voting rights.

They sense that most Israelis believe that now too in light of all the current violence. They are appealing to fear.  Fear brought about by the frequency and randomness of the attacks by all manner of Arabs — men, women, and children — coming out of the woodwork with knives to indiscriminately kill innocent Jews.  Add to this the ‘logic’ of European rejection of the millions of Arab refugees coming to their shores, and they ask, ‘Why should Israel tolerate them in their midst’?

They think the time is now ripe to get popular support for their goal to expel the Arabs from all parts of biblical Israel. It would not surprise me if they have gotten a few converts to their cause just about now.

This must never be allowed to happen. Rabbi Kahane’s philosophy inspires extreme violence in his followers. As was the case with Dr. Baruch Goldstein who one fine Purim day murdered a group of Arabs while they were praying at Ma’aras HaMachpela.  He was murdered in the midst of doing that and is considered a martyr — an icon worshiped by Rabbi Kahane supporters.

Is this the kind of Israel we want? A country run by the Baruch Goldsteins of the world? Not me. If this is the kind of Israel it becomes, count me out. Because if that comes even close to happening, Israel will God forbid be destroyed both morally and eventually physically — justifying every canard hurled at them by Palestinians and their supporters all over the world.

About the Author
My worldview is based on the philosophy of my teacher, Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik , and the writings of Rabbis Joseph B. Soloveitcihk , Norman Lamm, and Dr. Eliezer Berkovits from whom I developed an appreciation for philosophy. I attended Telshe Yeshiva and the Hebrew Theological College where I was ordained. I also attended Roosevelt University where I received my degree in Psychology.