I don't often get too personal on this blog, but today is an important day. Fifteen years ago, Israeli Prime Minster Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated after speaking at a peace rally in Tel Aviv in Kikar Malchei Yisrael (now called Kikar Rabin).
I don't have very many flashbulb memories from my childhood, but one of my most vivid memories were of watching PM Rabin and Chairman Arafat sign the Oslo Accords on the South Lawn of the White House on September 13, 1993. I was in the third grade, and we were allowed into the teachers room (!) where there was a TV set up so we could watch the broadcast of the hour-long ceremony. I have clear memories of Rabin saying his now-famous plea: "enough of blood and tears. Enough!"
Even now, all these years later, Rabin's speech moves me.
Another of my most vivid memories from my childhood was finding out that Prime Minster Rabin had been assassinated. I remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, and what I was wearing when my Mom came and told me what had happened. I was just ten years old. I'll simply share with you PM Rabin's final words before he was murdered:
I was a military man for 27 years. I waged war as long as there was no chance for peace. I believe there is now a chance for peace, a great chance, and we must take advantage of it for those standing here, and for those who are not here -- and they are many. I have always believed that the majority of the people want peace and are ready to take a chance for peace.
I continue to hope that the sentiment of hope expressed in those words - spoken fifteen years ago - will come to fruition.
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Actually that is a flashbulb moment for me as well. Well not just that moment, but the whole time period around that event.
I was home â which was Tel Aviv, Israel, at the time. I think it was a Saturday, I was getting ready for a party or something, I was going to go to that peace rally, but ended up staying home for some reason. The TV was on, some stupid old Israeli movie was playing, and it was interrupted.
It was not unusual for programming to be interrupted, but that only meant one thing. Something bad happened. Some terrorist attack most likely. I immediately turned the ratio on. In Israel, there is news on nearly every station every hour on the hour, and if something happens, then all stations play only specific music that is somber in tone, and indicative that an event you rather not know about has happened.
I remember hearing the radio reports about there being a shooting at the peace rally, and that someone was hit. Some reports said Rabin was hit, others said it was his body guard. And there was a woman, an eye witness, older lady, who with all certainty proclaimed that she saw him and he was not hurt, he was not hit, she was sure of it, she saw it with her own eyes.
In Israel, you are not allowed to release the names of deceased prior to formally informing their families that they have passed. Later that night when they still didnât release any information, the Israeli news teams said they could not confirm this, but they are obligated to report that British Sky News was reporting that Rabin had passed away. Once his family was informed, the Israeli news confirmed that as well.
If you have ever been to Tel Aviv, you know that it is a very loud and noisy city. People constantly screaming and honking their horns, driving like crazy. I had lived there my whole life at that point, and this was the first time ever in my existence, that the city went silent.
For months following that event, the city was mourning. It wasnât organized, it was just spontaneous, people around felt they had to change their ways. No one went to the movies, coffee shops were closed, no one ate out at restaurants, no clubs, no parties, no one even honked their horn. Not once. I was a teenager then, so I donât know if this happened in other cities as I didnât get around much those days.
Rabinâs home happened to be in the building right next door to where my parents live. There was a daily influx of visitors, citizens paying their respects, lighting candles, bringing drawings, poems, flowers. There were even buses full of Japanese tourists that came out to visit, each with their own camera, just like in the old stereotypical scenes. It was quite surreal. Everything they brought was left at the base of the building. Well as close as they could get, as there was a lot of heavy security there, including snipers on the roofs of all adjacent buildings. His building itself was gated off, so most of the visitors ended up down in the entrance area to my building. Amongst the visitors I remember seeing Warren Christopher, and King Hussein of Jordan.
The city was devastated, as was the country. That time was, at least in my life time, the closest we had come to peace and prosperity. It was in the air. We had peace with Egypt, we had just made peace with Jordan, things were looking up. I remember one of the most touching projects that happened prior to this event, was a white cloth stretched from Egypt, through Israel in Eilat, and all the way to Jordan. The cloth was covered in little hand prints made by kids who had dipped their hands in finger paint. What a great sentiment that was. Such a shame things fell apart as they did. And by a religious Israeli man. Who smiled as he did it and still smiles today, there is no remorse, and whatâs crazy is that he has now requested that he be allowed to father a child with his wife, even though heâs imprisoned, so another one of him can be running around. The current government is likely to agree.
I remember a similar moment when I was in the second or third grade watching Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat of Egypt signing a peace treaty. For some reason I was home from school that day and I remember my grandmother crying and being me very confused and she said that she was very happy but sad that Golda Meir wasn't there to see it.
I remember this well, also. (Although I was a bit older.)
Thanks for remembering, and for sharing the memory. I think we all still share that hope.