Daniel Feigelson

The End of St. Isaac’s Day?

So I’m driving home this morning after dropping off a soldier daughter, and I see a relatively new car with a bumper sticker that I haven’t seen for years, showing a picture of Yitzhak Rabin and the numbers “4.11.95”, viz. the date on the Gregorian calendar when Yitzhak Rabin was killed. Those bumper stickers were common back then, but for someone to have it on a recent vehicle means he went out of his way to put it there. And apart from asking myself, Where did he get that from?, I thought of several things.

One thing that I thought of was Rabin bears a good deal of responsibility for the mess we’re in now. He could have told Peres and Beilin to get lost and said no to Oslo, but he didn’t. The PLO was moribund, far away in Tunis, and he brought Arafat back and gave him land – our land! – right next to us. And then, when terrorism followed like day follows night, he doubled down, dividing the country by mocking those who criticized Oslo. He legitimated the notion of a terrorist state alongside Israel, and since that time anyone who says that a “two state solution” won’t work (as has been proven repeatedly) is branded an extremist instead of a truth-teller.

Another thing that occurred to me was that, with all the fighting going on since October 7, there was no St. Isaac’s day this year. That’s the term that some friends and I use to refer to the day of commemoration ceremonies that until now have occurred annually on the secular anniversary of Rabin’s death. St. Isaac’s day has always disgusted me, for several reasons.

First, as noted, he gave the OK to Oslo, which has resulted in thousands of Israeli deaths, mostly but not exclusively Jews. That’s not something to celebrate, that’s something to mourn.

Second, because of Oslo, he was a failed PM. Polls at the time showed that had elections been held on the day he was killed, he and his party would have been trounced, because voters were fed up with Oslo.

Which brings me to the third reason I hate St. Isaac’s day: the beatification of Rabin. He alone among Israel’s deceased prime ministers has been accorded an annual remembrance day. Not David Ben Gurion, Israel’s visionary first PM; not Levi Eshkol, who was PM during the Six Day War (when Rabin as Chief of Staff had a nervous breakdown); not Yitzhak Shamir, who went to Madrid and said “no”, a word that subsequent prime ministers were unable to enunciate. It would be like the USA not having a day for Washington’s birthday and Lincoln’s birthday (which have now been merged into a single “Presidents’ Day”), and instead having a day to commemorate James Buchanan.

So why is Rabin alone commemorated, why is he elevated to the level of St. Isaac? Because of the way he died: by being shot by someone else. (We’ll ignore the questions of how it was that Yigal Amir, known to the security authorities, was allowed to get so close to Rabin, let alone with a gun; or how it was that Rabin couldn’t be taken to Ichilov hospital, only a few minutes’ walk from where he was shot, in time to save him.) Being shot didn’t change the fact that he was a failure, that he was responsible for the biggest policy mistake in the young history of the modern State of Israel. But his failure as a PM is completely overlooked. He was shot, so he’s a saint, and he deserves a special day of commemoration.

Finally, I hate St. Isaac’s day because instead of focusing on Rabin’s failed career, or even on the one civics lesson that can be learned from Rabin’s killing – viz., in a democracy you change things at the ballot box, not with a gun – it has been coopted by the Israeli left to mourn “the peace process” and to sling mud at the Israel’s political right. In the weeks and months following the shooting, the left repeatedly asserted that it was everyone who opposed Oslo who was responsible for Rabin’s death, claiming that there had been a campaign of “incitement” against him. And for 27 years thereafter, rather than fess up to the reality that Oslo was a mistake, the left pointed at their political opponents and used St. Isaac’s day to try to tar those opponents as killers and “anti-peace”.

It hasn’t worked, of course: Rabin’s Labor party is nearly dead, as is the Meretz party. The second intifada also caused many people to understand that Oslo was a debacle. And after October 7, even more people recognize the folly of Oslo, and the follow-on folly of the Gaza Expulsion in 2005.

At any rate, as a result of the current war, we weren’t treated to St. Isaac’s day this year. I hope it never returns.

About the Author
The author grew up in the USA and has lived in Rehovot since 1991.
Related Topics
Related Posts