Yitzhak Rabin’s Lessons in Leadership

Categories: Seek Peace and Pursue it

On July 26, 1994, Yitzhak Rabin addressed the United States Congress during a unique convention, in which both houses of Congress honored Yitzhak Rabin, then Prime Minister of Israel, and King Hussein of Jordan. This was a momentous occasion in the long and often difficult struggle for peace between nations having a history of war, and there is much we can learn from Rabin’s words to his own people, to the Jordanian leader and his people, and to their American hosts. In particular, I think Rabin’s remarks about the role of leaders resonate with our role as movement and community leaders. Rabin’s words force us to ask ourselves whether we are leaders that encourage our people to take steps with us into the terrifying unknown, towards the aims of peace, justice, equality. How and to what extent are we nurturing the desire for peace in our own communities, and to what extent are we reaching out to bridge schisms and create partnerships?

Excerpt from Rabin’s address to King Hussein and the US Congress – 1994

      The debate goes on: Who shapes the face of history – leaders or circumstances?
      My answer to you is: We all shape the face of history. We, the People. We the farmers behind our plows, the teachers in our classrooms, the doctors saving lives, the scientists at our computers, the workers on the assembly line, the builders on our scaffolds.
      We, the mothers blinking back tears as our sons are drafted into the army; we, the fathers who stay awake at night worried and anxious for our children’s safety. We, Jews and Arabs.
      We, Israelis and Jordanians. We, the people, we shape the face of history.
      And we, the leaders, hear the voices, and sense the deepest emotions and feelings of thousands and millions, and translate them into reality.
      If my people did not desire peace so strongly, I would not be standing here today. And I am sure that if the children of Amman, and the soldiers of Irbid, and the women of Salt and citizens of Aqaba did not seek peace, our partner in this great quest, the King of Jordan, would not be here now, shaking hands, calling for peace.
      We bear the responsibility. We have the power to decide. And we dare not miss this great opportunity. For it is the duty of the leaders to bring peace and well-being to their peoples.
    We are graced with the privilege of fulfilling this duty for our peoples. This is our responsibility…
      full text of his address can be found at:


About Sarah Michaels Levy

Sarah is a member of the Habonim Dror Tnuat Bogrim (Graduate Movement) and lives in Israel. She manages the Anglo-Saxon Desk for World Habonim Dror.
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