Yitzhak Rabin
Shalom, Haver
"A man like no other I have met: a son of Israel and the father of its future." - Hirsh Goodman

Rabin, stoic as always

THE LEGACY OF YITZHAK RABIN - Seven years after the assassinations of Lincoln, Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, the people of the United States were still struggling to heal their wounds and find their way through times of war and upheaval. Whether it was the toil of Reconstruction, the division over Vietnam, or the sacrifices of the Civil Rights movement, each of these great leaders was a guiding light snuffed out far too early in their lives – and as a result, the people they led were forced to weather the coming storms alone. In November 2002, seven years after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Israelis and Palestinians had been embroiled for more than a year in the torturous cycle of violence that continues to this day. The peace for which Rabin had given so much seemed like a distant dream.
In Israel today, Rabin’s name is rarely mentioned. For a growing number of Israelis who have lost loved ones in the militarization of the Palestinian intifadeh uprising, the mentality has shifted from a willingness for compromise to feeling under siege. Yasser Arafat and his PLO have been marginalized, isolated, and accused by Ariel Sharon’s government of supporting the Islamist extremist groups whose bombings have stigmatized many Israelis to the possibility of peace and reconciliation. Sadly, the hope and unity so beautifully expressed on the night of Rabin’s death are now only a fading memory. As expressed by Nancy O’Malley, a distinguished teacher of the humanities at Boston Latin School, “Unfortunately our memories are short, and we forget that only a little while ago Rabin held out the very real prospect of peace, but ever since Sharon instigated the intifadeh by visiting the Temple Mount, there’s been so much violence and bloodshed, oppression and reaction to oppression, that it wiped out the memory of what Rabin had done.”
Even in the darkest times, however, there is still hope to be gleaned from the example set by Yitzhak Rabin. With just a few handshakes over the span of a few years, the courageous leadership of one man was able to produce exponentially greater waves of change. The respect Rabin earned over several decades of dealing with Arab countries, the historic peace treaty with Jordan, the limitless promise in those few months of excitement – all of it was a stunning demonstration showing that a lone leader could single-handedly bring together two seemingly irreconcilable sides. Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, proved that a single leader could shatter it just as easily.
So what, then, is Rabin’s legacy? Most centrally, it is the idea he planted in the minds of both Israelis and Palestinians that compassion and the will to forgive were all they needed to form a bridge across decades of hatred and distrust. It was the essential faith and belief in the ability of humanity to make common cause in the knowledge that mutual hatred would breed only mutual suffering. Rabin’s actions were the profound validation of the tenet that it took just one voice to stem the tide of suffering by two proud and ancient peoples. The success of his peace outreaches to Arab countries proved it was possible; the heartbreaking conflict in Israel today proves it is needed now.


Yitzhak Rabin