Photo: Yaakov Sa'ar, GPO
Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The memory of the murder is fading
Photo: Yaakov Sa'ar, GPO
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
Prof. Yedidia Stern
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky

Make Rabin's memorial a national holiday

Op-ed: The Israeli calendar doesn’t have a single holiday shared by all Israeli citizens. Turning the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Day into Israeli Democracy Day could fill this void.

Twenty years ago, my life was shattered. In addition to the trauma experienced by the entire Israeli public, I experienced a special emotional shock when I found out that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's murderer was a student in the law faculty in which I served as dean at the time.



I realized that something very big had gone wrong. For the first time, I felt the State of Israel was not immune to the destructive forces which led to our loss of independence during the Second Temple era. The years that have passed, and the accumulated national experience, have failed to ease these concerns.


It's sad to admit, but today the memory of the murder is fading - making us lose a valuable educational and emotional tool for advancing national goals. The threat to the memory originates in its constant binding with the negative in our lives and with mutual accusations between the different parts of the people.


The accusation that an entire sector was responsible for the murder - which took hold of many at the time - made it difficult for national-religious Jews to internalize its importance. The shameful fact is that there are those in the national-religious public who conceal the memorial day and see it as a platform for marketing political views that are unacceptable in the sector.


Rabin's contribution to Israeli society after his death could be even greater than his contribution during his life (Photo: Meir Fartush)
Rabin's contribution to Israeli society after his death could be even greater than his contribution during his life (Photo: Meir Fartush)


This resonates in the general public as well: A recent survey conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute reveals that about half of Israelis believe the left helped deepen the rift among the people following Rabin's murder by accusing all the right and the religious of being responsible for the murder.


In addition, the memory of the Rabin murder is undergoing a privatization and dilution process. Competing rallies, which mark a battle over the public consciousness, lessen the educational value which should have been derived from the tragic event.


But the Rabin murder is too important for us to abandon its memory in the hands of the forces seeking to make us forget it. It's time for national thinking which will remove the memory from the dispute area and turn it into a building force. I will suggest an idea which may create an all-Israeli partnership in preserving the memory.


The Israeli calendar is derived from the Hebrew calendar: The self-examination of the Days of Awe, the heroism of Hanukkah, the Passover celebration of freedom, or the national mourning of Tisha B'Av. Only one day - Independence Day - celebrates Israeliness itself, but this day is not a holiday shared by all Israelis either, as one-third of the citizens are Arabs and ultra-Orthodox, and Independence Day is not their holiday, unfortunately. We don't have a shared civil day which does not mark any religious, national or cultural uniqueness, but is entirely focused in civil Israeliness.


The Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Day can fill this void, if it is turned into Israeli Democracy Day. The rich and chaotic Israeli agenda stresses the differences between us. Every morning, we wake up to disputes and crises. We need a balance by setting a date in which we will emphasize the common ground of all tribes of Israeli society. On this day, we will mark the citizenship we all share. The 5th of Iyar will remain the sovereignty's birthday; the 12th of Cheshvan will be the citizenship day.


The democratic experience can be rich, and creative thinking is needed to emphasize its colors and shades. The justified pride we take in being the only democracy in the region should be celebrated on Democracy Day everywhere: In school curricula and unique ceremonies, festive broadcasts, prayers and special address by the prime minister.


While we mourn the loss of a private person, we seek to process the event, soften its impact and recover from it so that we can move on with our lives. That's the way of the world. But the murder of a public figure - the Israeli prime minister - conceals a much wider meaning, which must not be forgotten in order to continue leading "a normal life."


If we learn how to link the public loss to a broad public repair, as suggested, it's possible that the next generations, "which were unfamiliar with Yitzhak," will be able to determine that he made a great contribution to the Israeli society during his life, but that his contribution after his death was even greater.


Prof. Yedidia Stern is vice president of research at the Israel Democracy Institute and a professor of law at Bar-Ilan University.


פרסום ראשון: 10.21.15, 23:53
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