Letters to the Editor
The day hope was gunned down
November 4 is a kind of Israeli equivalent of the Twin Towers disaster. An American says to you the words "nine eleven" and immediately November 4 rises from your gut. An Israeli instinct. This is the day hope was cut down, a dream was smashed and its fragments are still shattering. The candle generation is a generation of caves, not illumination and it is sitting there somewhere in the cellars thinking where have we gone wrong and what have we done since November 11. It is a day of reckoning, of wondering "what would have happened if." That is the best way to escape what is - by dreaming about what would have been.
This is not a cursed day because of Rabin, the personality. It is a cursed day because of Rabin, the dream.
The feeling was that now we are climbing the mountain at last, the slope is steep and exhausting but we are there, clinging with all our might. Our people are tumbling downwards, to the abyss, but we have not given up. Here we go, now, just a little bit more and we are there, we are there on the sure path, on the golden Israeli path, the path filled with laughing children, coexistence and a new Middle East, where the reddest thing is the wine and there are explosions only when there is a clearing-and-building urban renewal plan. And then it hits you hard. A political hurricane that flings you from the mountainside down to hell. No wine, no gold and no children. You have seen the Promised Land and you simply did not enter it. You think about Rabin and you read newspapers and you don't manage to grasp how you ever succeeded in gathering the courage and the gear to climb up that mountain.
The dream was cut down, the man was cut down and also for many of us a reality was revealed - perhaps there never really was a mountainside and we never really climbed to a better place. And still, Rabin was a symbol of a hope, which we are gradually losing, still hoping we never lose it entirely.
A cause for hope
It seems that what started to happen in recent years and was stunningly manifested in the summer of 2011 is not going to stop. Young women and men are causing us to think that maybe the time has come for "the best to go to politics."
We cannot but be optimistic. The fact that so many people who in the past scorned the possibility of going into politics as a profession, of electing and getting elected, are embarking on this rocky path, is cause for hope. The new forces are bringing new strategies, based on togetherness, cooperation and the creation of coalitions that transcend parties in order to advance the broad general welfare.
I hope that this movement will give rise to new structures that reflect this tremendous energy and ability to move things. I hope that these people from all the movements will consider joining hands for the sake of our general welfare, strengthening democracy and casting out racism and violence. I hope they will work together in a real struggle to narrow gaps and ensure basic social rights and above all to build a shared society, bucking the trends towards extremism, separatism and segregation.
Behind the scenes at the UN
In response to "Elie Wiesel is up to his neck in work", November 2
In 1997 the United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names was scheduled to be held in Tehran at the invitation of the Iranian government. As a member of a United Nations Group of Experts on geographical names and Israel's representative (from 1997 to 2007 ) to UN conferences in the area of toponomy (the study of place names ), I was asked to participate in this conference.
Since the government of Iran refused to allow my entry into the country, I applied to the UN Secretariat in New York and asked it to deal with the issue on the grounds that under the regulations every official representative of all the UN member states must be allowed to participate in its conferences.
At a preliminary meeting in New York in 1996 I requested in all the appropriate forums that the meeting be transferred from Tehran to a neutral country. In addition to the political argument, I raised an additional argument: gender discrimination. The French representative, a woman and also the chair of a committee, had told me she was informed that she would have dress restrictions imposed on her and since she would not agree to this the French government would be sending a male representative in her stead.
At the meeting no one stood up openly to support my demand even though behind the scenes there were those who backed me. But wonder of wonders: Four months later an announcement (with no explanation ) was received from the UN stating that the Fifth UN Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names would be held, a year later than originally scheduled, in New York instead of in Tehran.
Prof. Emeritus Naftali Kadmon
Hebrew University of Jerusalem