Dedicated to Rabins remarkable life, the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv is a fascinating and thought-provoking treasure trove about modern Israeli society and history

Julie Eltes
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Julie Eltes
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Upon entering the parking lot of the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv, visitors tend to linger near the old gray Cadillac with the dark, tinted windows and the two small Israeli flags that turned yellow over time. This is the limousine that transported Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to Ichilov Hospital on the evening of his assassination on November 4th, 1995. Rabin had been participating in a large peace rally at Kings of Israel Square in Tel Aviv (since renamed Rabin Square) before being shot in the back by an extremist Jew.

The Rabin Center

For the past ten years, the Rabin Center has been striving to transmit democratic values and tolerance through its museum, its diverse exhibitions and, mostly, through an educational program created especially for children, young students and Israeli soldiers. The goal of this program is to present a model of social cohesion based on Yitzhak Rabins principles and initiatives, with the aim of fostering a flourishing and pluralistic society that lives in security and peace

I am committed to continuing my fathers legacy through his lifes work – to ensure that his ideals and leadership example continue to impact future generations, and that his story and commitment to national civic responsibility touch people who visit from Israel and from around the world, clarifies Dalia Rabin, Chair of the Yitzhak Rabin Center and one of his two children.

Investing in youth

YItzhak Rabin with senior officers at the beginning of his tenure as Chief of Staff

The Rabin Center is a national institution dedicated to commemorating the life and achievements of Yitzhak Rabin, and examining the lessons and implications of his assassination. It houses the largest database and archives related to Rabins life. The Rabin Center promotes activities and programs that inspire civil discourse among different sectors that make up the complex mosaic of Israeli society. Tens of thousands of students from throughout Israel come to the Center each year to study the lessons of Rabins life and death.

The Rabin Center also works closely with the Israeli army, and today its one of the armys main providers of educational programs about Israeli history, democracy, society and leadership. Nearly 20,000 soldiers visit the Rabin Center every year. Its essential to invest in the young generation in order to maintain a pluralistic and democratic society in Israel, explains Dr. Nurit Levinovsky, Director of the Educational Department at the Rabin Center.

The Israeli Museum at the Rabin Center is at the heart of this educational effort. Built as a spiral in the style of the Guggenheim in New York, the Israeli Museum consists of a single descending corridor that traces Rabins life. Ten areas branch off this corridor, documenting the history of Israel from the early 1920s to the present. This unique interactive museum presents the successes, defeats, wars and conflicts, political and cultural developments, waves of immigration, progress, challenges and dilemmas that Israel confronted throughout Rabins lifetime.

Furthermore, the Rabin Center – in partnership with the Orna Porat Theater for Children and Youth – regularly organizes entertaining educational programs for the youngest public. A Leader is Born, for example, is an educational and interactive show that uses the Israeli Museum as an historic backdrop. Actors portray characters such as Theodor Herzl, David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin and, of course, Yitzhak Rabin.

All points of view

Prime Minister Rabin during Operation Yonatan, 1976

The museum essentially strives to be inclusive. It is important to show all the points of view here, because of the complex reality, explains Dr. Levinovsky. The section devoted to the Oslo Accords transmits an especially strong message: beyond Rabins historic accomplishments, different opinions are equitably represented and documented.

The Israeli Museum welcomes more than 100,000 visitors a year. In addition to organized tours, audio guides are available in several languages for individual visitors, including in English, French, Russian and Arabic. Among the Museums highlights, one can find Yitzhak Rabins home office, preserved exactly the way it was the last time the Prime Minister left it.

Other treasures include Rabins Nobel Peace Prize, his military papers, officers medals, Chief of Staff diaries, ministerial notes, writings as Chief of State and historic photos. Also on display: the Song for Peace, a blood-soaked piece of paper containing the lyrics of the song he sang at the peace rally moments before being shot. It had been folded in his jacket pocket.

When the Center was established in 1997, we set out to create an institution that will help heal the wounds of our mourning society and fulfill my fathers lifelong dream of improving the lives and security of Israelis, reveals Dalia Rabin. By educating future generations and showcasing Yitzhak Rabins leadership example, we hope to increase our nations ability to face challenges and to scale greater heights, she continues.

Like many institutions of this scope, the Yitzhak Rabin Center largely depends on financial support from the private sector. We reach out to all segments of Israeli society. Our workshops bring about collaboration and cohesiveness and our educational programs reinforce democratic values. I encourage people to join me in supporting this important endeavor as partners in continuing my fathers legacy, concludes Dalia Rabin. 

Operation Yonatan

While a significant part of Rabins career took place in the army, it was during his tenure as Prime Minister that he supervised the military operation considered to be one of the most audacious in history. The raid on Entebbe – renamed Operation Yonatan in honor of the young officer and brother of current Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who was killed during the raid – is currently the subject of a special exhibition at the Rabin Center.

This exceptional exhibition presents original documents and objects, and was produced in close cooperation with the Mossad, Israels national intelligence agency.  Alongside official government, IDF and Mossad documents from the operation, the exhibition portrays the human drama by giving voice to the hostages.  

Particularly extraordinary is the story of Patricia Martell, an Israeli-British nurse who wounded herself on purpose with a safety pin at the beginning of the hostage crisis and pretended to be having a miscarriage in order to be evacuated. After the terrorists released her in Libya, she flew to England where she was debriefed by the Mossad. The information she provided was of critical importance in gathering information about the hijacking. Ironically, this nurse worked at Tel HaShomer Hospital near Tel Aviv, where she had treated Idi Amin Dada, the Ugandan president and accomplice in the hostage crisis, a few years earlier. 

For me, Entebbe embodies the finest qualities of our people and our military. From beginning to end, the Entebbe experience exemplifies determination, resourcefulness, leadership and assuming responsibility – and this is what Yitzhak Rabin symbolizes for us, asserts Dalia Rabin.

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