Paul Mirbach
Paul Mirbach

The Night We Lost Our Innocence

Today we commemorate 22 years since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. This year it falls on exactly the same date and the same day that this momentous murder took place. No-one could believe that an Israeli Prime minister would be killed by a Jew – and yet that is what happened. In the two seconds it took to fire three shots, Israel’s innocence was shattered. It is a defining moment in our short history as a reconstituted nation. Israel’s politics and her democracy has never been the same, since that fateful night. The parameters which defined our politics and political discourse blurred and faded, as the lifeblood of this great man of vision left his body. The irony, that the very man who stood on that balcony over Zion Square in Jerusalem, waving and smiling at the crowd below, who bayed for Rabin’s blood with posters of him dressed as an SS officer, and with a Kaffiyeh on his head, is now our Prime Minister, causes me pain and anger almost too intense to bear. Every time he speaks at the memorial ceremony, I want to scream out “Have we gone mad, to have him speak at Rabin’s grave”?! The saying “haratzachta vegam yarashta?” comes to mind.

Much like a ship whose mast has broken and whose rudder has been smashed, drifts aimlessly at sea, never reaching the shores of sanity and reason, so Israel’s political discourse has lost all decency and constraints of respect and decency with no conceivable way back. This is not Rabin’s legacy, but the legacy of his assassin, which has ominously superseded Rabin’s vision. Those three shots not only killed Yitzhak Rabin, they killed a nation’s belief in its ability to make peace with its neighbors. For, how can we make peace with those we need to, in order to ensure our long term survival, when we cannot even make peace among ourselves? This is no longer a crisis, it is a condition.

While I deeply mourn the loss of the last true leader Israel has produced to date, I mourn more deeply the loss of hope, and the loss of political courage of those we look to for leadership.

It is a condition which must be treated and nurtured back to health. The deep rift among the people will not be healed overnight if, or when we are rid of Netanyahu. It will continue. In order to be able to meet the task ahead, we need to see things for what they are, with no air brushing and no filters.

The political divide has changed. It is no longer a question of Left vs Right. The political conflict now is between those who believe in democracy as a way of life, and those who use democracy to achieve their goals, and then discard it, in order to consolidate and perpetuate their power, turning it into despotism. This is our priority. We need to form alliances with all those who believe in the democratic way, above political power, to overcome the spreading shadow of darkness, which emanates from Balfour St. and the coalition offices, and which blackens the horizon. This is our struggle. We must not flinch.

Friend, I miss you, but I will do my best not to fail you.

About the Author
Paul Mirbach (PEM), made aliya from South Africa to kibbutz Tuval in 1982 with a garin of Habonim members. Together they built a new kibbutz transforming rocks and mud into a green oasis in the Gallilee. He served in the infantry during his army service, serving in both Lebanon and the West Bank, including on reserve duty during the first intifada. Paul still lives on Tuval with his wife and two sons.