By: Miki Golod
On November 4th, 2017, Israel commemorates 22 years since the assassination of Prime Minister Yizchak Rabin.
I was a 13-year-old when Rabin was murdered by Igal Amir, a right wing radical religious man. For me it was the end of Israel as I knew it — a turning point that changed the course of history and reshaped the way I saw my country and its future.
I entered Junior High in the mid-90’s, a period in Israel where “peace” was popular, at least within the circles of a young Moshavnik from the North such as myself. The name of our youth movement was “Peace” and our anthem, “Give Peace a Chance” by the Beatles. Peace sign graffiti was all over my school’s walls and kids adored Aviv Geffen — back then a young rebel singer who advocated for peace; today a reality show judge. Our parents called us “The Moon Children,” and later on “The Candles’ Generation”.
The peace process was at its peak; Rabin signed the Oslo accords and the peace agreement with Jordan. Shimon Peres was the foreign minister and Shulamit Aloni was the Minister of Education. We all felt and believed that the country was headed in the right direction — that peace was finally around the corner.
Those hopes were shattered on that November night in 1995.
I wish I had a better answer for the question “where were you when Rabin was killed?” But truth to be told, I was sleeping. It was a school night, and I fell asleep early. I always have regretted missing that historic moment, and back then was upset with my parents for not waking me.
In the morning, My mother woke me and my sisters with the news. I was shocked. I stared at the television in disbelief while Roni Daniel, Channel 2 reporter, was still in the empty square in Tel Aviv presenting the newspaper’s headlines. I remember the words of Shvach Weiss, the Speaker of the Knesset, as he arrived to Rabin’s house: “I’m angry that the sun rose, it should have stayed dark, such a barbaric night”.
School was strange that morning. Quite. The teachers and students were in a state of shock. We all gathered by the flag to hear the principal, who was as speechless as the rest of us. Students were crying, as were some teachers. The school designated one of the bomb shelters (the school had a few) as some kind of an improvised memorial and the students were encouraged to write what was on their minds on the walls. It didn’t take long for the room to be filled with candles, peace signs and peace graffiti all over the walls.
At home, we watched the 24 hours news coverage with our parents. It was the first time I saw them cry. I remember my father’s words as we watched the heartbreaking speech Noa Ben Arzi gave at her grandfather’s funeral: “I am so sorry you need to experience that” my father said. He saw it as their failure to ensure better future for my generation.
Back then, we didn’t know that everything we believed in was about to collapse. During the election campaign we supported Peres and collected stickers and banners. We even got our hand on a building-size banner of Dor Shalem Doresh Shalom organization (a Hebrew pun that says, Entire Generation Demands Peace) to hang from the second floor of our school.
Then came election night, and this time I didn’t let myself fall asleep. I was thrilled when the first results predicted a victory for Peres. I went to bed encouraged by what I believed was a fact — that the horrific terror attacks Israel had experienced prior to the elections hadn’t change the minds of the voters who still wished to continue Rabin’s legacy.
But, just like in November 5th, I woke up to more bad news. Bibi won. Results had changed overnight. “They” won.
Today, when I look at Israel from my home in New York, where I have lived for the past seven years, I am heartbroken. The country I grew up in no longer exist. The values we cherished as teenagers have been replaced with shallowness, close mindedness and fear. A lot of fear.
The people who incited against Rabin are running the show, and the word “peace” became practically obscene. The total collapse of the peace process is not the Israel’s responsibility alone, that needs to be said. But the radicalization of Israeli society, the hatred of minorities and refugees, the blunt racism and the non-apologetic dismantling of Israeli democracy is as upsetting as it is terrifying.
Now, more than ever, it is our job to remind to next generation that Rabin was killed because he wanted to make peace with our neighbors. That he was killed by a religious man who was inspired by rabbis and politicians who had called for violence and encouraged their voters to hurt Rabin and his government.
My mother has kept the newspaper from November 5th, 1995. It is resting between other papers and documents on our library’s top shelf. Each time I see that newspaper when I visit home, the thin low-quality paper looks dryer, more yellow, and some of the pages are starting to fall apart.
We must not let Rabin’s memory and legacy fade away and crumble like that old newspaper. We must never stop fighting against bigotry and hate: in Tel Aviv and in Charlottesville, in Jerusalem and in New York. That is Rabin legacy and that is what he died for.
Miki Golod is Ameinu’s Director of Israel Programs and Administrative Affairs. He grew up on Moshav Beit Hilel and served as a field medic in the IDF from 2001-2004. In Israel, Miki studied graphic design education at the Mary Bloomfield School of Design (WIZO), and in New York he received an MFA from the Fashion Institute of Technology. Prior to Ameinu, Miki worked as the Visa Department Director and Director of Israelis Abroad at the Israeli Consulate in New York.