“The Binding of Yitzhak” is a 2015 documentary that is based on interviews with retired Shin Bet agent Dvir Kariv. Assigned to the Shin Bet’s “Jewish Department” Mr. Kariv shares his journey investigating Jewish extremists leading up to Prime Minister Rabin’s assassination and his interrogation of the convicted murderer Yigal Amir. I can’t imagine a more crucial time to watch it if you haven’t done so already.
In Israel every ten to fifteen years, give or take, we go through this “Us vs Them” thing. The chaos isn’t new, pick up a Tanach, we’ve been drama queens for millennia. Moses was the first person in human history to negotiate for better conditions with his boss. Moses the lawgiver? More like Moses the organizer. I wonder if being descended from limited gene pools over the last several thousand years explains what it is like to drive down the Ayalon every morning with 10,000,000 other ADHD Israelis.
My own Jewish and Israel journey started in Appalachia, the mother of all limited gene pools. I never had a chance to ask my Grandpa why he settled there, maybe rolling hills that went on forever and the widespread poverty reminded him of home. I researched my father’s family and traced them back to a northwestern Lithuania village in the 1760s. Grandpa’s idea of the American dream was to trade Lithuanian Jew hating locals and Cossacks in the middle of nowhere for Appalachian Jew hating Hillbillys and the Ku Klux Klan in the middle of nowhere.
There is a code in Appalachia. While faith was central it was your kinfolk that defined you. I could be playing with a friend after school when his Ma would ask me who I was “Harrison you say. You Mort’s boy?” “No ma’am, I’m Dave’s boy.” She’d nod “Dave’s a good man.”
In Appalachia many a folk had never met a Jew before. “You a Jew? Don see yer horns” while I never had to deal with this, I have friends that were. There was the social order of who you could be friends with: Protestant – Catholic – Jewish – Black…you could go up or down one but not two.
I left Appalachia at eighteen and spent the next two years in Israeli communities from the far Left to the far Right. There was the incredible experience at the Ha-Shomer Ha-Tzair Kibbutz ulpan during the Lebanese war then the Yishuv in the barren hills south of Hebron. I spent many Shabbatot with some of the most amazing families in Me’ah Sha’rim and the Haredi neighborhoods stretching from the Old City to Mattersdorf.
I continued to make my way around a complex Israeli society as much as I could. The 1980s bridged the miraculous Israel of Golda, socialism and the little blue boxes to the beginnings of privatization and the miraculous Israeli Start-up Nation.
During the 1980s and 90s my politics were to the right of the Center. I wasn’t a fan of Yitzhak Rabin as Prime Minister in 1994 and I was vocal about it. I felt that The Oslo Agreements were bad. I was convinced that the way the Labor government was handling the entire negotiation process was anti-Democratic and Haim Ramon’s antics on Ted Koppel’ Nightline didn’t help. I wasn’t alone in feeling that the Labor Party was tearing the country apart and worse, they were endangering us all.
Then the most awful thing happened, Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister of Israel, our Prime Minster, was assassinated by a Jew. There could be no finger pointing, on some level we all had his blood on our hands and for the first time in my life I was ashamed of my people more so I was ashamed of myself.
I woke my three-year-old up at 4am so we could watch the live broadcast of Prime Minister Rabin’s funeral. With tears in my eyes I told her to remember this awful day. When she was older, I told her that, yes, I disagreed passionately with Rabin as Prime Minister, but when we disagree with our Prime Minister, we vote them out of office, we don’t murder them. I told her when I think of Yitzhak Rabin the only thing that mattered to me wasn’t his politics it was his absolute dedication to our people. Yitzhak Rabin will always be an eternal hero of Am Yisrael. I told my daughter that his murder will be remembered as one of the worst days in the history of our people.
I look at the streets and squares of Israel today and ask myself, do I shake my head at all the knuckleheads demonstrating or do I smile at the irony? Most of the arguments the protestors are making are wrong, but not all of them. My politics have mellowed some over the years, I learned that words matter. We have the right to shout at each other though maybe a whisper will accomplish more. Listening to opposing views is a strength not a weakness. Israeli democracy while strong is also fragile. In Appalachia there was the code, you respected a man or a woman who fought for what they believe.
What we see on the streets of Israel today reminds me of another terrible time. Threats to leave, threats to not serve. I believe we need to tread very carefully. After watching the documentary The Binding of Yitzhak and I have one question to ask:
If Bibi were assassinated by a Left-wing extremist; Would you cry? Who would you blame?