Magazine article Tikkun

Making the Memory a Blessing

Magazine article Tikkun

Making the Memory a Blessing

Article excerpt

Yitzhak Rabin unquestionably thought of himself as a loyal Zionist. It is ironic, therefore, that he did more than any other Israeli leader to create the conditions for an Israeli culture and society that some would call postzionist. Of course, this was only one of many ironies in Rabin's life, the life of one who was transformed from an embattled warrior to a determined, frequently lonely peacemaker. The first Sabra prime minister, he separated himself from the discourse that defined Israel in terms of the Shoah. No longer was the Jewish people to view itself as the victim, the persecuted.

The new Jewish vision was marked by the anticipation of peace and freedom rather than recurring images of violence and persecution, by hope rather than haunting specters of potential holocausts. International friendship and regional cooperation rather than unceasing suspicion and hostility was henceforth to shape Israel's relations to the community of nations. Although he referred to the pain and suffering of Israelis, he did so not to arouse the nation's anger or to foster chauvinism, but to declare his desire and intention to make that suffering a thing of the past by establishing a radically altered relationship with the people with whose fate that of the Israelis is intertwined, the Palestinians.

Here, too, Rabin did the unthinkable. He was the first Israeli Prime Minister to acknowledge the legitimate claims of the external other, the Palestinians. He seemed to sense that the Israeli Jew's identity was as much a product of the relationship with Palestinian Arabs as it was with Jews living in other lands. Through his words and his deeds, he proclaimed his readiness and willingness to attend to and respond to the voice of the Palestinian. Confirming the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalist aspirations, he knowingly or unknowingly, willingly or unwillingly, helped to open the way to the fulfillment of their dream of a Palestinian state.

Ironically, it was in death that he was able to provide us with a foretaste of that new, postzionist reality. We watched King Hussein speaking from the depth of his being about his friend Yitzhak Rabin, pledging to continue his struggle for peace, and we watched Hosni Mubarak, however begrudgingly, pay his respects to an Israeli prime minister. …

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