Rabin Remembered - in Private and Public

On approaching her brother's grave during the private ceremony for family and friends on Mount Herzl on Friday, Yitzhak Rabin's sister, Rachel Yaakov, remarked in surprise: "It looks almost official."

The remark was Yaakov's instinctive response to the sight of the Labor ministers and the quasi-official arrangements of the family ceremony, at which, for the most part, members of the "Rabin camp" mingled with Jewish tourists who had chosen to visit the grave site.

Those who spoke at the ceremony knew Rabin well, and for every one of them, he symbolized something different. Although the event was defined as a "family" affair, members of the slain prime minister's family were not among the orators - his friends spoke.

Writer Eli Amir spoke of Rabin "the social reformer;" and MK Avraham Shochat choked back his tears when speaking of the honest and reliable man whom he loved, the straight-talking man "who didn't allow sophisticated statements with nothing behind them to roll off his tongue."

Once all the words had been spoken, all present united in a rendition of Shir Ha'reut, Rabin's favorite song, in a moment of grief.


Looking on was a group of students from Turkey on a trip to Israel. "We are used to such things in Turkey," said one. "But we were very surprised that in Israel a Jew killed a Jew for political reasons. We thought Israel was different."

But Israel is, for the most part, confused. Ten years later, and society is still trying to find the right language, the right degree, the appropriate content for perpetuating Rabin's memory. The private mixes with the public, the public mixes with the official, and it's all very confusing.

On Friday afternoon, Ami Ayalon went to the Rabin monument, in the square that bears Rabin's name, to place at the scene of the murder three roses, as a counter to the three bullets that were fired. "The Rabin family has appropriated Rabin's memory from the public, and commemorates the private individual," he said with evident discomfort. "The private individual is shielded by the family, which has loves, hates and vendettas, and decides who will attend and who will make speeches. We don't have an official line in the State of Israel, and this comes to the fore in the commemoration."

In contrast, others at the site of the memorial argued that, were it not for the family, the official "remembrance agents" would have taken over, and the commemoration would have turned into an obliteration.

Expectations that the masses would spontaneously flood to Rabin Square on November 4 failed to materialize. The square remained empty. A few hundred people - some mere pedestrians, and others who had come especially to pay their respects - passed by the monument and gathered around for a while. Aside from the pain, many expressed frustration. Others voiced anger about the left taking possession of the memory in a manner that brushes aside those with different political viewpoints; others are angry about the memory being stripped of its political dimension and the desire to create a false sense of reconciliation. And many spoke of the fact that they have stopped attending the annual memorial rally in the square as an act of protest from opposing directions.

Itai Ben-Horin, one of the founders of the Yisrael Aheret (A Different Israel) movement that failed in the 2003 Knesset elections, said this was the backdrop for the decision to hold an alternative memorial ceremony yesterday, for all those who feel uncomfortable in the company of refuseniks and radical left-wing groups at the rally.

And all this bickering is taking place within a single political camp, known as "the peace camp." The members of the other camp were nowhere to be seen around the memorial site. Perhaps they don't want to be there; perhaps they feel unwanted.

All the goings-on and conversations around the monument conveyed the sense that in the past decade, nothing has really changed - only dulled.