By Leah Garber
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. With his casual gaze and distinctive forelock (in his younger days), Rabin was the quintessential sabra, a genuine Zionist, a military leader, a political warrior, and a Nobel Peace Laureate who truly lived and died for the Jewish State.
At the time, hundreds of thousands of Israelis grieved, joined by Jews and leaders from throughout the world. More than mourning Rabin alone, we mourned the piece of Israel’s soul that died with him. His assassination tore a hole in our country, an open wound that still bleeds, refusing to heal, even after 25 years.
Like the contentious atmosphere in today’s United States, whose citizens just elected the country’s next leader, Rabin’s tenure as prime minister was marked by a divisiveness between peace-niks and opponents of any compromises, creating an atmosphere that overflowed with mutual hostility, accusations, and an urgent sense that the country, as a result of the Oslo Accords, was on the verge of greatness—or disaster.
Today, too, the ongoing pandemic, government instability, and multiple elections once again have led to growing rifts in our society. Wind refuses to dispel the heavy dust of summer, clearing the way for fresh air. Despite the beginning of the rainy season, on many levels, it is still hot and steamy here in Israel.
But not all is lost. Under their wings, autumn’s migratory birds carry a new message, and it is one of reconciliation and peace.
Israel is on the verge of a new era. Shimon Peres, z”l, Rabin’s political partner, dreamed of a New Middle East, and that dream that is taking shape now in our troubled part of the world.
Following the historic peace agreement among Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, Sudan announced last week that after many years of animosity, it, too, will join The Abraham Accords and follow the road to peace by normalizing its relationship with Israel. Other countries in the Middle East also are expected to enter the tent that Abraham, our common ancestor, built more than 7,000 years ago, and into which he welcomed everyone, Hebrews and Arabs, to join his feast as brothers and sisters.
In this spirit of breaking down walls and barriers, Jews from throughout the world are preparing to convene to hear and question and dialogue with an array of voices from across the political spectrum as part of the Z3 Project, an initiative of the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, California. Since its inception in 2015, the Z3 Project has been bringing speakers and participants together to create a new way for Diaspora Jews and Israelis to engage in the 21st century. It aims to honor the diversity of our Jewish voices, even as it works to build the unity and equality of the Jewish People and our common future in a better, stronger Jewish world.
This year, as one of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re scaling the Z3 Project globally, and we hope to reach thousands of Jews in locales across the world. Mark your calendars now for the week of Hanukkah—December 10-17, 2020, and plan to join us for some fascinating, critical conversations and a true celebration of Jewish diversity.
If we learned anything from Rabin’s assassination, it is that we must allow our political differences to surface in democratic, respectful ways so we can aspire to grow and move forward together as a people.
Throughout the eight nights of Hanukkah—and while tuned into this year’s Z3 conference— Jews around the globe will light the holiday’s candles. May these collective lights illuminate the beauty of our people and all humanity, reminding us of Rabin’s flame of hope and flame of peace, and may he be forever remembered for his contributions and sacrifices.
In the spirit of hope and unity that Rabin personified, enjoy this beautiful rendition of “Jerusalem of Gold,” sung by female cantors from around the world. With their voices, they glorify Israel’s capital, the heart and soul of all the Jewish People.
Leah Garber is a vice president of JCC Association of North America and director of its Center for Israel Engagement in Jerusalem.