Today, it is 25 years ago that Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of the State of Israel, was murdered on the Kings of Israel Square in the center of Tel Aviv during a massive peace demonstration by some 400,000 people.
My oldest daughter Taïr had just turned four. Now a beautiful woman of 29, she has never known the square other than Rabin Square, since shortly after the murder, the place was renamed. She lives right around the corner. She does remember well, however, how her father was shedding tears as he was watching Rabin’s funeral on television a few days later.
All members of my parents’ generation can recall where they were when U.S. President J.F. Kennedy was murdered, in Texas, in 1963. I was also four at that time. And in my generation, there were two traumatic events that on-one will ever forget: the murder of Yitzhak Rabin and 9/11.
A year before the murder, we had moved from Tel Aviv to Herzliya, about ten kilometers to the north. We had the opportunity to buy a larger apartment in the center of Herzliya, as after the birth of our second daughter Noam we needed more space.
On November 4, we were to go to the demonstration, held at a time of great incitement against the government and its plans to advance the peace process with the Palestinians. Together with a couple of friends who also had small children, we had it all planned out how to get to the Kings of Israel Square with prams and strollers.
But that afternoon, we got a call from a couple of friends who were visiting Israel. “We’re in Israel, and believe it or not, we’re right here in a hotel in town. Let’s take you guys out for dinner?”
That’s how we ended up in China Class, a Thai-Chinese restaurant on Ben Gurion Street in Herzliya. For many years after that, I could never drive, ride, or walk past that pace without pangs of guilt and sadness.
It was an enjoyable evening. We had good food, and the conversation flowed. In one corner, a tv, suspended from the ceiling, broadcasted live footage from the demonstration. Toward the end of the protest, we watched, with a smile, how singer Miri Aloni, while belching out the famous, and now famously notorious, peace song “Let the Sun Rise High,” pushed a microphone under Rabin’s nose, nudging him to sing out loud. Rabin was visibly embarrassed.
At the end of that show, Rabin, Peres, and consorts went backstage. It was also time for dessert.
I ordered a Dame Blanch. Another thing I cannot order anymore without feeling guilty. The restaurant owner muted the sound, and we continued to chat amicably.
Suddenly, many voices, loud and upset. “Rabin!” someone shouted. “Rabin has been shot!”
Within five minutes, the restaurant emptied out in dead silence. “Go home,” the owner implored. “We’ll settle the bill some other time.”
Half an hour later, we saw Rabin’s spokesman and personal friend Eithan Haber, standing in the middle of a crowd, issue a short, dramatic statement. Haber passed away just a few weeks ago.
Most Israeli can remember that statement by heart.
“The government of Israel announces in consternation, in great sadness, and in deep sorrow, the death of prime minister and minister of defense Yitzhak Rabin, who was murdered by an assassin, tonight in Tel Aviv.”
It was the end of an era. Our current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has never taken any responsibility for the significant role in fostering the campaigns of incitement and hate against Rabin and the government, leading to Rabin’s murder. Only recently, he had the utter chutzpah that he now feels as threatened as Rabin must have felt.
Rabin would have been 98 today. His two-year-younger sister, Rachel Yaakov-Rabin from Kibbutz Manara, gave an interview on Reshet Beth on the occasion of Rabin’s memorial.
With a strong, clear voice, she recalled fond memories about her brother.
She misses him tremendously, she said.
So do we.