The Legacy Which We All Salute

What then happened to the legacy of the young woman and man of the 'silver platter' generation? Where did they look for the future? Or are they looking for the future and not finding it?

Israel Harel
Israel Harel
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Israel Harel
Israel Harel

As a military man and as a politician, Yitzhak Rabin personified the generation of the Palmach, the elite strike force of the pre-state underground Jewish militia, the Haganah.

The day commemorating the assassination of the late prime minister, which falls about a month after the deaths of two other men who were true symbols of the Palmach generation - the songwriter and poet, Haim Hefer, and Avraham "Bren" Adan, who raised an improvised Israeli flag at Eilat during the War of Independence - provides us with an opportunity to ask, or to wonder, what became of this legacy?

If it had significance and was borne aloft by important people such as Rabin, Yigal Allon, Moshe Dayan and others, how is it that it has been neglected by the generations that followed? At the heads of the parties that are currently running in the upcoming elections, there is not even one personality that belongs to the second or third generation of Palmach members, or that truly represents the heritage of the Haganah - of settling the land and of doing what they could for the good of all - as did the Palmach generation. Shelly Yacimovich and Yair Lapid are the children of Holocaust survivors, and Benjamin Netanyahu's origin was in a Revisionist family. Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert also came from a Revisionist background.

In the military sphere as well, where the Palmach generation (known as the generation of "the silver platter" after a statement by the first president, Chaim Weizmann and a poem on the subject by Natan Alterman ) achieved its fame and which was a central step in the creation of the independent Jewish state, there were barely any sons who continued in their father's footsteps at the senior levels. In the sphere of settlement, which is second only in importance to security, there is no significant generation of heirs.

What then happened to the legacy of the young woman and man of the "silver platter" generation? Where did they look for the future? Or are they looking for the future and not finding it? Clearly there are many answers to that question. "The boys roared that is was all over," wrote Hefer at the time. However, in fact, the war of independence was never over. And that is certainly one of the answers. And the Palmachnik who was exhausted and went to look for the tomorrow, is another of the answers.

But above all of these is the shell shock that we all experienced, in particular the generation of the Yom Kippur War. Almost the entire cadre of senior commanders in that war was composed of graduates of the Palmach. Some of them did not recover from the trauma even until the day of their death, and they infected their surroundings with it. Their guilt feelings, which were much exaggerated, caused some of them - like Moshe Dayan - to abandon the identity that had been part of their genetic code and which directed most of their actions and deeds. They chose foreign paths that were totally contrary to those they had walked all their lives. Instead of attributing the intelligence failure and the weakness of the political leadership - which was afraid to order a pre-emptive counterattack - to human weaknesses of which history has known even greater, many of the best men of the Palmach generation became dispirited. They attributed exaggerated ideological and strategic significance to human error and a few of them almost reached the point of doubting the justice of the chosen path.

Rabin, who did not stop believing in Zionism for even a moment, was influenced by the low spirits, especially of those who belonged to his generation. Even though he was not involved in the mishap, he chose a path of concessions that ended in [the agreements with the Palestinians at Oslo - one of the greatest disasters that has continued to reverberate here almost without a break in the past 20 years, and even in the past few days in the western Negev. And it is the Oslo agreement that they, particularly members of his family, are insisting on bequeathing to the public as the central heritage of "the man of peace." This insistence has caused many people to develop opposition also to the really significant and true legacy of Rabin: the legacy of the War of Independence and the Six Day War.

That is the real heritage of the generation of the Palmach and of "our older brother" - as the poet and novelist, Haim Guri, refers to Rabin. That is the legacy which we all salute.

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