Remembering Rabin – Celebrating Biden

I was there at the square on November 4, 1995, at the “No to Violence, Yes to Peace” rally, the night that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by Yigal Amir.  And last night, I went to the square once again to mark the 25th anniversary of his assassination.  It was the first Saturday night in five weeks that I didn’t go to the neighborhood demonstration against Netanyahu the man who presided over the incitement against Rabin on the eve of that fateful day.

I felt it was important to be there once again, to stand in the moment of silence in his memory, as the elements of his life and the funeral flashed on the screen, and they played Arik Einstein singing “Shalom Chaver”.  And to be there once again to sing together with Miri Aloni and the thousands of people in the square “Shir L’shalom”:

To sing a song for peace, not whisper a prayer./To sing a song of peace, with a loud shout!

To not say a day will come/but to help bring that day.

The decision to show the feature film “Incitement” which focused on the assassin Yigal Amir in the middle of the rally felt strange, though I understood it.  Towards the end of the film, there was Rabin once again in the square singing “Shir L’shalom” together with Peres, Aloni and the others.  And there was Yigal Amir lurking in the shadows at the bottom of the stairs, with some of the police assuming that he was an undercover agent.  If only the film could be rewound, the script amended, with another ending.

In the middle of the film, my friend Karen in New York emailed me the message:

“OMG – Biden is President Elect!!!!!

This is Wonderful News !!! We know there are huge problems. And huge reasons to Celebrate! I can’t wait to hear Biden speak tonite at 8 pm. And to see footage of celebrations around the world!! Since it was announced there has been a large crowd at Bleecker and 8th Ave cheering and horns honking.”

And I couldn’t help recalling how everyone in New York was in shock and mourning four years ago.  With over 10,000 put yellow paste-up notes at the 14th Street station of the subway, expressing their feelings, including my daughter Rama and Governor Cuomo, one of the heroes of the struggle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now, a new dawn will be rising, a new chance for the United States, and all democratic and human rights loving nations and people around the world.

I don’t know why MK Yair Lapid was the only speaker at last night’s rally, though he is the head of the Israeli opposition in the Knesset, and he did give a decent speech, emphasizing the need for hope.

At the end of the film, Aviv Gefen, who was there 25 years ago and was embraced by Rabin before he descended the staircase, took the stage once again.  “That damned and dastardly night” he said, “led Israel to descend down a path we never dreamed of. Not only is Yigal Amir in prison, the whole nation is in prison, democracy is in prison.  I have hope thanks to our brothers in America who said today no to violence and no to racism”.

He then sang his “Shir Tikva” (Song of Hope), an Israeli variation on the theme of John Lennon’s “Imagine”:

Let’s march towards the dream/With no race or nation.

Let us try/Till it will be okay/Till it will be.

Let’s bury the guns/And not the children

Let us try/Till it will be okay.

Let’s conquer peace/And not the territories

Let us try/Till it will be okay.

For the eternal freedom/For our children/For my children.

Let us try/Till it will be okay/Till it will be.

Aviv asked everyone to sing together with him, and to light their mobile flashlights as a sign of hope in the darkness. “We will win!” exclaimed Aviv.

What followed was the singing of the national anthem, “Hatikva” (The Hope).  On this Saturday evening, the words

The Hope/For 2,000 years/To be a free people in our own land.

Sounded more possible than they have in a long time, accompanied by the thought of not ruling over another people who would also be free.

And the thought that if it happened there, it can happen here as well.

I left the square on my way home with the traditional sound at the end of every Rabin memorial rally and peace rally of John Lennon’s “Imagine” playing over the loudspeakers.

About the Author
Hillel Schenker is Co-Editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal, and lives in Tel Aviv
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