On Sunday, participants from BINA's Gap Year in Tel Aviv, Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, and the Mechina (pre-Army) programs visited the Palmach museum to learn about the the events leading up to, and immediately after, the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. After visiting the exhibition, the group split off into smaller mixed groups and discussed what they had learned in the museum and how it differed from what they had (or had not) learned in their home countries. They also shared their thoughts on how Israel might have changed, had the day not ended the way that it did. Here are some of their reflections as we commemorate 22 years since the assassination.
‘I’m volunteering in a school and Yitzhak Rabin memorial day was my second day volunteering there. The teacher said I did not have to come, but I wanted so badly to see the ceremony that I got out of bed at 6:30 and rushed to Jaffa, where I joined the 7th graders in the auditorium. I probably heard of Rabin’s death before coming to Israel on my Birthright trip in the summer, but my Birthright trip is as far back as I can trace my knowledge of the events of that day. As most Birthright groups do, we went to Rabin square and talked about what happened. But it was not until the visit with BINA to the Palmach museum and the discussions that we had after, that I realized how relevant this event was to Israeli society; how much, back then, Rabin represented hope, and how that still impacts our lives (and I include myself!).
The magnitude of this day is clearer to me after learning about the events that led to that; after watching footage of the desperate people who saw in him someone who could actually change things; after listening to Israelis talk about how that influenced their lives; after thinking about who did it and trying to understand why; after reflecting on how different things could be now. So, when I got to the school for my volunteering, when the lights went off in the auditorium, a song started playing and the teens who were participating in the ceremony walked to the stage and placed lit candles on it – it did not even matter that I did not understand a word of the texts that they read in Hebrew. These students were born some ten years after Rabin’s death, but that does not make this day any less important to them. It is a universal subject in so many ways, and I feel that now I can understand it and relate to it as if it had always meant that much to me’.
Flavia, 20, Brazil – A participant of the Tikkun Olam program
‘Like most Israeli teens, I used to have a very limited understanding of Rabin and his assassination. I knew that Rabin was left wing, and that he was about to sign the Oslo agreement. I knew he was murdered, 3 gunshots I think, by another Jewish Israeli, a right wing one. I knew that it was sad and that it was a national tragedy.
Then I went to the Palmach museum, with BINA.
We walked through an exhibit like none other- It was truly like being inside a movie. The rooms were designed like the locations of that movie, one room was a forest, with trees and fog and a tent, and another was the inside of a submarine. Considering this choice of design and the fact that I’m an emotional person, it should come as no surprise when I say the experience truly touched me. I connected with the characters, felt anger, sadness, and many other emotions.
Coming out of the exhibit I had a strange sense of pride. I realized just how much teens my age were willing to sacrifice for their country, how far they would go with their loyalty. And Rabin was one of them. Coming out of the exhibit we sat in a big circle and talked about the assassination. We talked about him being killed by another Jewish person, particularly an orthodox one. We talked about how the day is celebrated in other countries within Jewish communities and I was very surprised to find out that it’s usually just a small ceremony and that the Jewish community outside of Israel doesn’t really know much about Rabin or the murder. The fact that Rabin was killed by an orthodox Jew to me means just as much as the fact that he was killed by an Israeli Jew. Or by any Jew. Or by any human. Violence is never right. No matter sex, ethnicity, religion. No living being should kill another.
What struck me most was a discussion I later had with a smaller group of people. We were talking about Igal Amir’s motivation to kill Rabin. About how he must have felt that it was the only way to save the country from an agreement that was, in his eyes, destructive to Israel. How he must have felt that he was doing good for the country, saving it from the Oslo agreement. I came out of that conversation pretty shaken up. Trying to understand a murderer- That’s never easy or fun.
But I think it was important. It made me realize that even Igal Amir, one of the most despicable characters in the Israeli story, thought he was just doing what’s right for the country. And that’s an important message, to me, because it means that the solution isn’t teaching everyone to have the same opinion, or to love the same cultural icons. It is to disagree respectfully. peacefully. With no violence involved. That is the only way this country will truly be safe’.
Rimon, 19, Israel – A participant of the Mechina (pre-army) program
‘I don’t remember when exactly I first learned about Yitzhak Rabin, but as a teenager, I couldn’t imagine opposition to him. I saw him as a harbinger of peace, and couldn’t imagine how anyone could see that as a bad thing. At the Palmach Museum, I found myself thinking of names people see as undeniably implicated with peace: Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Malala Yousafzai. People violently hated each person, but when I envision faces around the word “peace,” their images arise in my mind. Rabin won a Nobel Peace Prize (something I didn’t know until a few days ago!), but even diaspora Jews often don’t immediately think of Rabin when asked to think of notable peacemakers. Israelis know his name, but American Jews at least don’t always know even the half of it.
Today, I wish we had the momentum Rabin had brought to the peace process. Though there was tension and opposition, there will always be tension and opposition. While I personally agree with Rabin’s methods, I feel that even those opposed should recognize that a volatile stalemate with Palestinians is not preferable to working towards peace. I worry that we might not progress again to the point Rabin achieved, but I truly hope that we will. I don’t know how responsible diaspora Jews are to remember an assassinated Israeli politician, but I think those who believe in peace should always remember a soldier for peace. The progress was stalled by a bullet. Remembrance can help us work to resume again’.
Alissa, 22, United States – A participant of the Tikkun Olam program