Remembrance, Rededication and Thanks

Categories: Israel
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Everybody talks about peace
Nobody talks about justice
For one, it’s heaven for the other it’s hell
How many fingers on the trigger?

Everyone has the same dream
Over mountain, over valley
Keep talking, talking about peace
But peace won’t prevail without justice.

-Israeli singer Muki from the song “Everyone Is Speaking About Peace”

I remember back to November 4, 1995, Motzei Shabbat (Saturday evening), I am at home baby-sitting my two young sons. The other two members of my family are at the rally for peace at Kikar Malchei Yisrael a public square in central Tel Aviv. A news bulletin comes through: Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, the closing speaker at the rally, has been shot.

I can’t believe it. No one can believe it. Everyone is in shock. Hours later we learn that the Prime Minister of Israel is dead – murdered by a Jewish assassin. At that point in my life, I had been living in Israel for 16 years. This tragic event shocked me to my core. It threw many of us into a deep state of collective depression. That day Israel changed.

November, 2013, eighteen years later – chai – I stood in that same square – now called Kikar Rabin.

I stood with 33,000 people at a memorial rally organized by a wide coalition of youth movement leaders, many of whom were born after Yitzchak Rabin was murdered.

Together we stood under the banner “Remembering the Murder, Struggling for Democracy.”

I stood shoulder to shoulder with a cross section of Israeli society. 

Gathered together to remember the man and to honor his dream were modern Orthodox youth from B’nei Akiva, and young Arab Israelis from Hanoar Haoved v’Halomed along with Israeli scouts and members from every “blue shirt youth movement” in Israel, Israeli soldiers in uniform from Nahal Units, and people from the rank and file of Israeli society who came to commemorate Rabin’s legacy and speak out for democracy and peace.

November, 2013- eighteen years later – chai – I found much hope in what I saw and heard. I saw young faces who had never known Rabin and I met people whose wizened faces had seen so very much. Together they agreed that education must be a lifelong commitment. I met those who had committed themselves to an idealistic vision for the future and have dedicated themselves to making it real.

There were speeches. There were musical performances. Important messages were delivered and were well received. But perhaps the best part of this exciting evening for me personally was in meeting Habonim Dror youth movement kids from around the world, some who were on their gap year program, others who had made the decision to make aliyah. They, together with many sabras, believed that things needed to be — and could be — different.

Eighteen years after that fateful night I saw vital signs that fueled hope for the future. For life – chai.

Thanks to Ameinu, I was personally introduced to the Dror Israel movement. Dror Israel is a pioneer Zionist movement of educators that work to strengthen all sectors of Israeli society. I had read about their work through Ameinu and had watched a few videos on their activities. I knew that it was Dror Israel that was the driving force behind this rally but was eager to learn more about them and their work. Hiam Simon, Ameinu’s C.O.O., connected me with Dror Israel’s International Director who welcomed me to the rally that Ameinu had helped sponsor. As a representative of Ameinu, I was given a tour of the massive educational exhibits set up for the public and was taken backstage to meet some of the other organizers by Gilad Perry, a member of Kibbutz Eshbal.

The enthusiasm and devotion to education and Israeli society demonstrated by these young men and women of Dror Israel was most inspiring. Just being at the rally wasn’t enough. I wanted to learn more. I was invited to spend a day meeting some of Dror Israel’s leadership in Beit Haim Brenner in south Tel Aviv and then went to visit the future site of one of their educational kibbutzim.

During my visit I kept hearing — from professors, past IDF colleagues, friends, and family — that the time-bomb threatening Israel is not the Iranian bomb, but instead are the social and economic gaps that exist in Israeli society. From my visit it is clear that among the chalutzim fighting this threat, Dror Israel is taking on the most daunting of the challenges.

I was thrilled that the values and the vision that I had internalized in Habonim — in Machaneh Bonim Yud Aleph in Hunter, NY, Workshop 25 on Kibbutz Grofit, and at Machaneh Miriam in Canada — were being rekindled in the educational kibbutzim of Dror Israel.

As an ambassador for Ameinu I often ask people when the last time they visited Israel. After my latest visit I will be certain to suggest that they visit with Dror Israel, a source of great hope for Israel’s future. Notwithstanding the sobering challenges that Israeli society faces, these young leaders are confronting the challenges daily as they lead lives as a new kind of kibbutznik with education and self actualization going hand in hand.

David Berson
Vancouver Ameinu

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