Our Trauma Is Greater Than Yours

The anniversary of Rabin's assassination seems to be a secular 'festival,' and the impact of his murder - among some religious sectors - pales in comparison to that of the disengagement

W An alternative reality. A survey by Gesher and the Mutagim Institute provided additional proof this week that when it comes to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the religious and secular publics live in alternative realities. According to the survey, only 39 percent of the public believes that Rabin's murder was the most divisive event in the history of the nation, as compared to 48 percent who believe that the disengagement from Gaza was the most divisive event. But the truly fascinating findings are those that examine the responses with respect to the level of religious observance of those polled: Only 9 percent of the ultra-Orthodox and 22 percent of the Orthodox believe that the assassination of Rabin was the most divisive event in Israel's history, as compared to 46 percent of secular Jews. On the other hand, over 60 percent of the ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox believe that the disengagement was the most divisive event (as compared to 41 percent of the secular public).

W I was at Rachel's Tomb. In 1997, on the second anniversary of the Rabin assassination, I conducted a small survey among members of the national-religious public, asking where they had been on that night. The most common answer: at Rachel's tomb, or on the way there, since that was also the anniversary of the death of the matriarch of the nation. Former MK Hanan Porat heard about the assassination at a distance of about 200 meters from the tomb, on his way home. At the dedication ceremony for the new building housing the tomb in November 1997, Porat said that Rachel "is shedding special tears for her son Rabin."

Yigal Bibi (National Religious Party), the deputy minister of religious affairs in 1997, organized prayer quorums that prayed for Rabin's recovery. The spokesman for the ministry at the time, Yair Wolf, was stuck in a traffic jam on the way to the tomb. "In the end," he said, "I went home and wept." So at least at the beginning, the national religious community participated in the shock and the mourning.

W They're not talking about it now. It's quite clear that the anniversary of Rabin's assassination is a secular "festival." Had there not been for the wholesale blaming of the entire religious community for the murder, says sociologist Menahem Friedman, "perhaps a different atmosphere would have been created, and they would have entered the circle. But from the beginning it started off badly." Friedman adds that in his synagogue they don't talk about the anniversary of Rabin's murder.

The left's Rabin assassination ritual, wrote Nadav Shragai in Haaretz, has several components, including casting blame for the murder on the entire national-religious community, presentation of the viewpoints of the extreme left as the Rabin legacy, although he was a centrist, and discussion of the Oslo Accords, "which sowed terror, bereavement and blood, and are now presented as the hope for all posterity." The result, wrote Shragai, is that half the nation has developed a sense of alienation toward the Rabin anniversary, and even disgust at its contents.

Nor do people people discuss the event in the synagogue of Haaretz reporter Yair Sheleg, author of the book "Hadatiyim hahadashim" ("The New Religious Jews"; in Hebrew). On the one hand, says Sheleg, the national-religious community felt "anger at the fact that it was excluded from the mourning, and there was a desire to participate in it as a kind of rehabilitation. On the other hand, the exclusion served as a type of excuse for not dealing with it. Otherwise, it would have been possible to conduct mourning events for the religious public, and they didn't really feel like doing so."

W Badge of honor. At a conference held on the Wednesday after the assassination of Rabin, in Beit Agron in Jerusalem, the late head of the National Religious Party, Zevulun Hammer, said that the assassination was "a trauma as great as the Yom Kippur War." But Hammer is no longer with us, the NRP is no longer with us, and in particular, the trauma is no longer with us. The religious public "does not consider it a national trauma, and certainly not a religious trauma," says Friedman, the sociologist. "It's a murder, but not one that shakes the foundations."

This phenomenon is perhaps reflected above all in the statement that the assassination of Rabin is "like any murder," which totally ignores the fact that the murder of a prime minister strikes a blow at the might of the entire nation. In a survey conducted by the daily Yedioth Ahronoth and Mina Tzemach, which was published last week, two of every three voters for religious parties responded that there is no difference between Yigal Amir and any other murderer, as compared to only one-third of the entire sample that disagreed with that view.

Hanan Porat has an entirely different outlook. He believes that "the statement that a murder is a murder is a murder, and that a political issue cannot serve as an excuse and a justification, is a badge of honor." In the final analysis, there were people who were extremely distressed by Rabin, but in spite of that, they relate to Yigal Amir as a murderer. Says Porat: "When it comes to understanding, identification and sympathy for Amir's act, the religious community has undergone a major change."

W They did some reckoning. The main demand made of them after the assassination was that they should engage in soul-searching. Although the religious public did not like being blamed, they undoubtedly did conduct an internal self-examination. As the secretary of Peace Now, Yariv Oppenheimer, told Haaretz a year ago: "The behavior of the right during the course of the disengagement proved that most of this camp learned lessons from the assassination of Rabin and to a great extent moderated its statements and the nature of its activity."

Says Porat: "The assassination of Rabin had a decisive influence on the importance of restraint during the disengagement." And this was true, he adds, despite the fact that then prime minister Ariel Sharon "behaved with a coarseness and brutality that was far worse than anything Rabin did."

In dozens of conversations before the disengagement, says Porat, he spoke of the fact that problems are not solved through political violence. He believes it is actually the secular camp that did not learn the lessons and did not figure out how not to push the religious public into crossing red lines, as in "the criminal act of the disengagement."

W A circle was closed. "To a great extent, the story of the disengagement, in a sense, served to balance the relationship between the national-religious public and Israeli society," says Yair Sheleg. He explains that the feeling in this community is that "now they owe us, because they caused us a greater trauma, because all of society rose up to strike at the religious camp. The fact that the disengagement took place during the 10th year after the assassination of Rabin created a sense of closing a circle."

Porat says that "that is a very base thought. The assassination of Rabin is an atrocious act and the disengagement is an atrocious act. Both were painful." But even he says that "I cannot say that the assassination of Rabin constitutes a trauma for me like the destruction of Gush Etzion or the destruction of Gush Katif."