Yitzhak Rabin is Israel’s John F. Kennedy: a fighter for change, a symbol of hope and an assassinated national leader, forever engraved in national memory as a pioneer for peace.
On November 4, 1995, Rabin was murdered by Yigal Amir, a radical, religious Jew. Amir dissented with the strides Rabin took for peace, particularly signing the Oslo Accords. Territorial concessions are an issue tied closely with religion, as the conservative religious parties do not believe in giving up the Biblical Kingdom of Israel. Rabin led the left-wing Labor Party and won the Nobel Peace Prize for the strides he took in the peace process with late Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat.
The night Rabin was assassinated he sang Shir LaShalom (a song for peace) at a rally supporting the Oslo process in the square that now bears his name. Minutes after he descended from the podium he was shot three times as he was entering his car. He died hours later in Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.
Saturday night I participated in the 14th Memorial Rally of his life and legacy. The current President Shimon Peres, the Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni and Rabin’s daughter Dalia were some of the notable speakers. Barack Obama recorded a video message that played on the jumbo-tron. Numerous nationally acclaimed singers contributed various anthems for peace. All preached similar messages of dialogue and understanding as the pathway to peace.
I was very excited to attend the rally. I think of peace as the only unifying thread in the politically fractured Israeli society. Peace is the shared goal with varying strategies for accomplishment. Some are ready to return control of the territories while others view religious devotion as the means.
When I arrived at the rally my friends and I were quick to deck ourselves with free signs and bumper stickers with the slogan “Peace Now”. However, I soon realized that this was not just a hopeful message. “Peace Now” is the slogan of the far left wing party, Meretz. Meretz and Avoda, the Labor Party, had huge floating banners and signs around the square. Nearly all the Israelis filling the square wore T-shirts affiliated with a given political party of youth movement.
Many would call Rabin Israel’s leader with the best chance for accomplishing peace with the Palestinians in the State’s history. I was disappointed that the rally celebrating his legacy had turned into a shameless display of politicking.