Remember, remember the 4th of November

November 04, 2010 21:05

I remember exactly where I was fifteen years ago, on the evening of Saturday 4th November, when I found out that Yitzhak Rabin had been shot.

My family had just come home after spending a really enjoyable Shabbat with a group of friends in a field school in northern Israel. The glorious weather meant we’d been able to go on a couple of long walks in the beautiful countryside.

It had been a lengthy car journey back to Ra’anana and we were all pretty exhausted by the time we got home. My children, who were then aged 12, 9 and 6, went to their rooms to get things ready for school the next day and my husband popped into our neighbour’s house to return a guidebook we’d borrowed for the trip. He came back through the front door a few minutes later and called out: “Yitzhak Rabin’s been shot. Quickly, turn on the TV.”

It was announced soon after that Rabin was dead. We spent the next couple of hours watching the breaking news, numb with disbelief.

And yet the signs had been there all too clearly just a few weeks earlier, when we’d gone to a large gathering of English speakers in Israel called “The Event”. Yitzhak Rabin was the guest of honour and he was greeted by shouting and jeering. He was called a murderer and traitor and told to go home. I was standing right at the front with my children, who began to cry, frightened by the sheer venom so openly on display.

“Will someone try to kill Mr. Rabin?” my 12-year-old daughter asked. I tried to reassure her that while the prime minister's life might be in danger, the threat was not from here in Israel.

At the time, I recall some friends who had also been at The Event saying that the jeering was justified because it was the only means of protest available. I disagreed, because I believed – and still do – that there has to be respect for the Prime Minister, especially at a family event with children present.

I recall, too, the public curses, and the posters of Yitzhak Rabin in Nazi uniform – in short, the blatant incitement that did not escape even my own young children. After the assassination, my seven-year-old son asked whether all the people who had jeered at The Event would be pleased.

I remember the atmosphere before and after the assassination very clearly and it is this memory that I believe we should be drawing upon when we try to learn from it. We can’t know for certain, of course, how history would have panned out if Rabin had not been murdered, but I believe that he would have lost the next election because of the terrorism that followed the Oslo accords. Indeed, his fellow Nobel peace laureate Shimon Peres was defeated in the election that was held a few months later, amidst a horrific wave of terror attacks.

Whether one supported Rabin’s policies or not, all Israelis should mark this dark day, when our democratically elected prime minister was assassinated. The lesson that should be learnt above all is the danger of incitement; of violent images and language, and of a lack of basic respect. All these evils are still regularly on display in the Knesset and in the media, as though we have learnt nothing.

In fact, they are on display in the comments that follow many of the blogs on the JC website - almost all of them apparently written by people who do not even live in Israel. These few individuals see fit to hurl insults at each other incessantly, and to indulge in a low level of debate.

How disappointing and depressing it is to read, today of all days.

November 04, 2010 21:05

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