This is a week of mourning for Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister who was shot in the back 15 years ago, on the 12th of Heshvan, by a Jewish extremist who had been egged on to murder by his so-called religious leaders. Opposed to Rabin’s peace policies, they promulgated the wicked idea that killing him was halachically permitted because he was a “rodef” – someone who should be killed because he is an imminent danger to others.
And yet, looked at with hindsight, it was Rabin’s death, not his life, that was a danger to Israel.
What had Rabin fought for, as a soldier and as a public servant? Peace. Peace that might well have been forged had he lived, for he had the political clout to forge it. Peace that Israel might have enjoyed for all these years. “Rabin died for peace,” Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg wrote in these pages on Nov. 10, 1995 – six days, on the Gregorian calendar, after the assassination – “and peace is the name of God.”
In a ceremony on Wednesday at Rabin’s grave on Mount Herzl, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to his predecessor as if he could be heard: “We haven’t yet reached the desired peace, and it is not clear if this would have completely surprised you.”
What would Rabin have answered, if he were able?
Get on with it, he might have said.
Just before he was shot, he had joined in the singing, at what is now Rabin Square, of “Shir LaShalom,” “Song of Peace.” The blood-stained song-sheet found on his body contained these words: “Do not say the day will come -/bring that day!/And all across the land,/raise your voices for peace.” (The song was written by Yaakov Rotblitt in 1967, after the Six Day War; the translation is by Moran Banai, who lived in Teaneck.)
The calendar brings us to this day each year – and while we remember and mourn that “soldier for peace,” we are also reminded of the wickedness that brought him down and must not be tolerated, and we are reminded, each of us, to “sing a song of peace” and “bring that day.”