We write these words on Nov. 4, the 14th anniversary (according to the Gregorian calendar) of the cowardly murder of Yitzhak Rabin. His actual yahrzeit was marked last Thursday in Israel. The Israeli prime minister was singing a song of peace when he was shot in the back by a Jewish extremist whose head had been filled with ideologically based hate – or perhaps it was hate-based ideology.
In Israel, Rabin’s yahrzeit is a national day of mourning. But we wonder how much attention it gets from Jews locally or elsewhere in the world – and attention must be paid. It is important to remember that ideas can kill, words can kill.
We were interested to learn, from the Jerusalem Post, that foreign students in Israel’s post-high school yeshivot and seminaries are particularly uninformed about the murder and the tensions leading up to it. Of course, they are very young, and were scarcely able to read 14 years ago, let alone to understand what adults still have difficulty understanding: How can a deeply religious Jew kill another Jew?
Still, many of these young people are graduates of Jewish schools in America and elsewhere. This lack of historical awareness (we will not call it ignorance) indicates a serious failure of Jewish education in the diaspora.
Educators in American yeshivot would do well to take a leaf from Rabbi David Milston’s lesson-plan book. According to the JPost, Milston, “the head of the overseas program at Midreshet HaRova in the capital’s Jewish Quarter, said that he gives a class on the Rabin anniversary every year. In his lesson he emphasizes two points: how to tolerate other opinions without coming to violence and the importance of giving respect to a man who dedicated his life to Israel.”
A quote from Milston belongs on a poster on yeshiva walls: “Achdut [unity] is tested when you disagree. There’s a difference between unity and uniformity.”
Some of the foreign students – even from our own community – will end up making Israel their home. It’s important that Israel’s griefs, as well as its joys, become their own.
And for those who remain in the diaspora – students of all our ages – it’s important to try, at least, to understand what led to that particular moment in Israel’s history when life changed, and one life ended.