Remembering Yitzhak Rabin on His 10th Yahrzeit:
Two Brit Tzedek Leaders Reflect on His Legacy

Hatikvah: Yitzhak Rabin's Message of Hope [Read more]
By Cantor Michael Davis, Lakeside Congregation, Brit Tzedek Board Member [Bio]

Letter from Israel — the Memorial Rally — November 14, 2005 [Read more]
By Rabbi Joshua Levine-Grater, Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center, Brit Tzedek Board Member [Bio]

: Yitzhak Rabin's Message of Hope

By Cantor Michael Davis [Bio] 

Last year, on Yitzhak Rabin's yahrzeit, Yasser Arafat was alive and the Gaza disengagement only a hopeful dream. What a difference a year makes — or does it? Today, Arafat is gone, the Gaza settlements are no more — yet the violence goes on. What reason do we have to hope that Israel and the Palestinians will eventually live in peace?

Israel is built on hoping against hope — a Jewish dream in the Middle East. It was hope that inspired both my grandfathers to move to Eretz Yisrael (then called Palestine). And it was when their dreams met the harsh realities of a life in the Middle East that they decided to return to Europe. Though they chose to leave, they could not forget Eretz Yisrael's promise and both returned to live there years later. My own story is similar.

I remember the 1992 election of Yitzhak Rabin. I waited for the election results in Jerusalem with friends, and when the election was called for Rabin, the room erupted in cheers. The next two years were wonderful ones to be in Israel. The deadening stance of resistance that had been the hallmark of the Shamir regime fell away, as hope and progress took hold. Psychological barriers and taboos melted away.

My chance to see peace in the making first hand came in May 1994 when I was called up for military reserve duty at the Erez checkpoint during the weeks leading up to the first stage of Israel's withdrawal under the Oslo Accords. Erez is the northernmost entrance to the Gaza Strip on the coastal road alongside the Mediterranean. Those last few weeks of the Israeli occupation of Gaza were a mixture of the familiar routine of occupation and signs of unprecedented liberation. I witnessed uniformed Palestinian officers leading meetings with their IDF counterparts on Israeli military bases in the Gaza Strip. The first joint Palestinian-Israeli patrols appeared. I saw the checkpoint transformed into a full-fledged border crossing.

I will not soon forget the Order of the Day on the day of the withdrawal written by the IDF Commanding Officer for the Gaza Strip: "We are transferring powers to a Palestinian autonomous government, we mark another stage in our maturing as a nation. Perhaps we understand differently the meaning of the saying, 'there are no victors in war'.... Let our victory be the victory of life, the triumph of hope, the victory of peace!"

Those were heady days. Yitzhak Rabin's vision was predicated on strength and generated hope. We hoped he would take the next necessary steps of telling the settlers that it was time to leave the West Bank and Gaza Strip and come back to Israel.

But Rabin's initiatives provoked stiff opposition. In the course of 1995, the tone of Jerusalem's Jewish streets was clearly anti-government. "Non-violent" protests such as traffic disruption and mass rallies came daily; it didn't feel safe to identify with the peace camp openly. My friends and I were eager to attend a pro-government peace rally one Saturday night in November. We wanted to express our gratitude to Yitzhak Rabin and to strengthen the government's resolve.

Seeing the tens of thousands of demonstrators in front of City Hall in Tel Aviv was a cheering sight. We were among friends. The atmosphere that evening was electric. I climbed the stairs of an apartment building to look down on the packed crowd.

After an emotional rendition of "Shir L'shalom," the evening was over. We walked slowly down the middle of the street, a hubbub of conversation around us. It was just another rally and tomorrow we would be back at work. Being able to stand for our convictions had restored a sense of normality to life in Israel.

All of a sudden, three gunshots rang out. Unmarked police cars whisked by us. We stopped at a kiosk to watch the TV reports - initially, it wasn't clear what had happened or who had been the target - but by the time we got home, the official announcement was made: Yitzhak Rabin was dead. For those few hours before the new government reconvened under the leadership of Shimon Peres, the sense of loss was acute.

The pundits declared, and the left with them, that though Rabin had been assassinated, the peace process was irreversible. But bombings followed: a new right-wing government was elected, and the settlements continued to grow. Sadly, the peace process was more fragile than we had thought.

Certainly, Rabin's assassination was one of the reasons I left Israel. In recent years, I admit that there have been times when I have stopped following the news from Israel altogether. The reports covered a depressingly predictable cycle of violent attacks followed by retaliations with no end in sight.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan broke the deadlock of violence and counter-violence; what had appeared almost beyond reach a year before was becoming reality. A pullout could open a new chapter in Israel's history. Would Sharon succeed? How would the settlers react? Would the army comply? With an excitement that bordered on a rebirth of hope, I followed the evacuations closely.

Soon, however, my hopefulness receded in the face of concern about what this melodrama was concealing. It didn't take long to find out: Sharon was letting go of Gaza as he strengthened his hold of the West Bank. This realization disappointed me — another opportunity to return to the negotiating table lost — but it did not derail my commitment to working for a negotiated, two-state solution.
Just this past week in an unpredicted development, the Labor Party elected Amir Peretz its leader. Upon his election, Peretz stood at Rabin's grave and announced his intention to make the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a top priority: "I came today to make a vow to Rabin, once again, that I intend to do everything I can to continue his way, I intend to do everything I can so that [Rabin's] assassin would know he failed to murder peace."

The history of Israel has oscillated between hope and despair. In a country of fiercely competing ideologies, the realities of being in office often trump ideological convictions. The right's great hope, Menahem Begin, traded the Sinai for peace with Egypt. Rabin, the man who ordered 'break their bones' during the first intifada, took Israel from war to Oslo. Sharon, the architect of settlement policy, ordered the dismantling of Israel's Gaza settlements.

If Rabin's life teaches us anything, it is that hope is born of the ability to grow with the changing reality around us. The past year has seen an identifiable realignment in Israel and the Diaspora. Many who had never before considered territorial compromise came to accept and even applaud the Gaza disengagement.

Israel's very existence is predicated on hope against hope, a constant clash between wild dreams and harsh truths. When reality meets ideology, true drama unfolds. The story of the West Bank has yet to be written, but I have no choice but to hope, as Jews always have, that Yitzhak Rabin's dream of peace will become a reality — soon, and for generations to come.

Letter from Israel - The Memorial Rally - November 14, 2005
By Rabbi Joshua Levine-Grater [Bio]

Dear Friends -

Ten years ago, my wife and I came to Jerusalem for my year in rabbinical school. I was new to the Middle East and new to politics. The events of that year - the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin z"l, the loss of a classmate at the beginning of the bus bombing campaign, watching Binyamin Netanyahu sweep into power promising change with a hard-line - changed me forever. 

I am again in Israel. Last night, ten years to the day after the assassination of the Prime Minister, I witnessed (albeit live on TV and not in person) the rally commemorating Rabin's life. They say that 200,000 people were there—it looked awesome! The TV kept flashing side-by-side pictures of this rally and the one 10 years ago where Rabin was murdered. President Clinton was the final speaker, and was, as always, incredible. He spoke of Rabin as a friend, mentor and partner. He spoke of wanting to regain the spirit of peace that Rabin sought and died for. 

I had chills as they played "Shir L'shalom," with some of the same people on the stage as 10 years ago. Again they showed the two rallies, side-by-side on the screen, and I prayed that nobody would be murdered at this one. It was wonderful to see Rabin again, his smile at the end of the rally will last eternally as a symbol of what can be.

Speaker after speaker spoke of what has happened to Israel in the past 10 years, and where the courage for seeking peace has gone. Shimon Peres was animated and charismatic, challenging the crowd not to cry and miss Rabin, but to stand up and work for change. He called on the young people to get involved, to speak out, to carry Rabin's legacy forward. 

Amir Peretz, who just this past week succeeded Peres as the leader of the Labor Party, called for the pursuit of a "Moral Roadmap, whose guiding star is respect for human dignity. A Moral Roadmap is ending the occupation and signing a permanent agreement." Read more.

Rabin's grandson spoke beautifully about the courage that his grandfather gave him, and he ended by saying that while he has felt alone at times in the past 10 years, he no longer feels alone. David Broza was incredible, lifting the crowd with "Yeheyeh Tov," the anthem of hope in Israel. And if I am not mistaken, he added a verse to the song that spoke of seeing the President of Egypt as his brother, his friend. He sang about ending hatred and starting to love one another. Peres called on people to see the Palestinians as neighbors, not viewing all of them as terrorists. He called on us to build bridges of peace, not walls of separation. Hope felt palpable again. We shall see if it lasts and what will come of it.

I am proud to be a board member of Brit Tzedek and feel empowered by the work we are doing. It was hard to see Barak and Clinton together again, and remember how close we were. From where will our strength come? I look to the hills and ask God to raise up new leaders, ones with the courage to seek peace again. May it be in our day.


Rabbi Joshua Levine-Grater


Cantor Michael Davis was born in England and grew up in Israel. He is the cantor of Lakeside Congregation near Chicago. He brings a pro-peace perspective to all his work in the Jewish community. In March 2003, Cantor Davis initiated and performed in a festival of Jewish and Arabic music and culture, including a joint concert of a klezmer band and an Arabic music ensemble. In Israel, he served in the IDF as a translator. While studying in Jerusalem he worked for the Washington Post's Jerusalem bureau. On November 13, 2005, Lakeside Congregation held an evening in memory of Yitzhak Rabin and, in conjunction with Brit Tzedek, hosted a screening of Chaim Yavin's documentary "Land of the Settlers." [Top] 

Rabbi Joshua Levine-Grater was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1999. Thereafter he spent two years as a Marshall T. Meyer Rabbinic Fellow for Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in New York City and three as the rabbi of Congregation Ahavath Israel in Kingston, New York, before becoming the spiritual leader of the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center. Rabbi Grater's work is a balance of activism, tikkun olam, and spiritual discipline. As an activist he is involved in local social justice causes, often with interfaith coalitions. His writing has been published in Tikkun and on [Top]

* The Yahrzheit is the anniversary of a passing observed in accordance with the Jewish calendar.

Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite 707
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
Fax: (312) 341-1206

Become a member: Help build our grassroots base of constituents.

Share this message: Tell others about Brit Tzedek v'Shalom.

Receive regular updates: Get weekly messages from Brit Tzedek v'Shalom.

More information: Click to see our website.

Subscribe to the Daily Digest: Receive daily news updates about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

This message was sent to . Visit your subscription management page to modify your email communication preferences or update your personal profile. Click here (or reply via email with "remove" in the subject line) to remove yourself from ALL email lists maintained by Brit Tzedek v'Shalom.