The memory of Yitzhak Rabin's murder is undergoing a process of privatization and dilution. Opposing rallies, which symbolize a battle for the public's consciousness, detract from the educational value that is worth taking on board from the tragic event.
Shamefully, some segments of the religious sector play down the remembrance day, which is perceived as a marketing platform for political viewpoints the sector finds unacceptable. Holding an entire sector responsible for the murder – a charge that stuck, at the time, among many pseudo-liberals – also made it difficult for the religious population to internalize the significance of the event.
It's been 19 years since the murder, and it's time now for some thinking from a national perspective that will allow this day to be shifted from the conflict arena into the Israeli calendar in a manner in which everyone can share it, now and for generations to come.
When we mourn the loss of a private individual, we seek to process the event, to soften its impression and to recover from it so that we can continue living a normal life. This is the way of the world. But the murder of a public figure – the prime minister of Israel – carries a much broader significance, which we must not be made to forget in order to continue living "a normal life." Moreover, when it comes to public mourning, as opposed to private grief, the remembrance is of particular significance for the future generations, those "who didn't know Yitzhak."
The shots that rang out in Kings of Israel Square (as it was then known) were designed to murder Israeli statehood. The assassin wanted to replace the ballot paper with which one votes, for a trigger with which one kills. Armed with unfounded religious arguments, the assassin sought to replace the command of the sovereign with the command of the rabbi. The blood spilled in the city square was the blood of Israeli democracy itself. Yitzhak Rabin was the target, and striking the target was designed to affect a violent takeover of the market of national opinion and decision-making. The remembrance day, therefore, must strive to achieve the opposite objective.
Here's an idea that's worth implementing ahead of the coming year, the 20th anniversary of the death of "that man."
As befits a Jewish state, the Israeli calendar is derived from the Hebrew calendar. The atonement period of the Days of Awe, the heroics of Hanukah, the Passover celebration of freedom or the national mourning of Tisha B'Av touch on everything. Just one day – Independence Day – celebrates Israeliness itself. But this day, too, is not a celebration for all Israelis, one-third of whom are Arabs and ultra-Orthodox, who, regrettably, don't view Independence Day as their holiday. We don't have a shared civil day, one that isn't religion, national or culture specific, but entirely civil Israeliness instead.
The memorial day to mark Yitzhak Rabin's assassination could fill the gap if it becomes Israel's "Democracy Day." The country's rich and chaotic agenda highlights the differences among us. We wake every morning to conflict and crisis. We need to create a balance by setting a date on which we highlight the common thread that runs through the tribes of all of Israeli society. On that day, we will mark the citizenship we all share as Israelis. The fifth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar will remain the birthday of Israeli sovereignty; the twelfth day of Heshvan will be a citizenship day.
Our justified pride in being the only democracy in the region should be celebrated on "Democracy Day" everywhere – in school curricula and special ceremonies, festive television broadcasts, prayers in synagogues and mosques, presentation of the Israel Democracy Institute's Democracy Index to the state president, and an annual address by the prime minister on the status of Israel's democracy.
Yitzhak Rabin's contribution to Israeli society, during his lifetime, was immense; if we were simply to allow it, his contribution to society, after his death, could even surpass it.