Yitzhak Rabin
Shalom, Haver
Our hands are shaking. Our hearts are breaking.” – Aharon Hamamy, gravedigger

Mourners at the funeral

IN A HERO'S WAKE - The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin sent shockwaves through Israel and the world, as news of his murder spread like a creeping paralysis. While some right-wingers rejoiced and crowed “Rabin is dead” in the streets of Tel Aviv, the majority of Israelis were hit with numbing disbelief at the news. Even at the height of the vehement opposition to Rabin and the Oslo accords he symbolized, few had ever imagined that Jew could kill Jew, let alone for the sake of petty religious ideology. Rabin’s death would leave bitter questions and painful answers regarding the condition of Israel and its people; but first and foremost, they had to say goodbye.

“I never thought that the moment would come like this, when I would grieve the loss of a brother, a colleague and a friend, a man and a soldier who met us on the opposite side of a divide, who we respected as he respected us. A man I came to know because I realized, as he did, that we had to cross over the divide … You lived as a soldier, you died as a soldier for peace. Let’s not keep silent. Let our voices rise high to speak of our commitment to peace for all times to come, and let us tell those who live in darkness, who are the enemies of light: This is where we stand. This is our camp.”

On November 6th, Yitzhak Rabin was laid in rest in the Israeli national cemetery atop Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl. His funeral was attended by dignitaries from more than eighty countries, with Jordan’s King Hussein and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak foremost among them. Yasser Arafat, Rabin’s partner in peace, was the only one excluded. Even with the outpouring of love for the fallen prime minister, Arafat was still too controversial and potentially divisive to Israelis who badly needed healing and solitude. Senior PLO officials were sent instead, while Arafat made a personal visit to Leah Rabin’s home to give his condolences. Even without his presence, Rabin’s funeral was an image of stunning power – Arab leaders standing in the heart of Israel, weeping before the grave of a man who had fought them on the battlefield so many decades ago, only to stun them years later with his drive for peace.. From the eleven eulogies given, emerged some of the most stunningly heartfelt words the world had ever heard for a fallen leader.

“Your prime minister was a martyr for peace, but he was a victim of hate. Surely, we must learn from his martyrdom that if people cannot let go of the hatred of their enemies, they risk sowing the seeds of hatred among themselves. I ask you, the people of Israel, on behalf of my own nation, that knows its own long litany of loss from Abraham Lincoln to President Kennedy to Martin Luther King, do not let that happen to you. In the Knesset, in your homes, in your places of worship, stay the righteous course. And if you stay that course, neither will America forsake you. May our hearts find a measure of comfort, and our souls the eternal touch of hope.”

World leaders unite in mourning

For Hussein, whose grandfather had been killed before his eyes decades ago, or U.S. President Bill Clinton, who had grown up in the shadow of John F. Kennedy’s murder, the memory of anguish gave their words the wisdom flowing from experience. But it was the tearful address given by Rabin’s granddaughter, Noa Ben-Artzi, that most stunned Israel and the onlooking world. Her eulogy was not that of a diplomat in mourning, but of a grieving young woman standing before her grandfather’s casket. In many ways her words, with those of Hussein and Clinton, became the voice of Israel and the world.

“Grandfather, you were, and still are, our hero. I want you to know that in all I have ever done, I have always seen you before my eyes. Your esteem and love accompanied us in every step and on every path, and we lived in the light of your values. You never neglected anyone. And now you have been neglected – you, my eternal hero – cold and lonely … I part from you, a hero, and ask that you rest in peace, that you think about us and miss us, because we here, down below, love you so much. To the angels in heaven that are accompanying you now, I ask that they watch over you, that they guard you well. Because you deserve such a guard. We will love you, Grandpa, always.”

Yitzhak Rabin