20 years ago today, I was driving through the dark streets of London. I had just started graduate school and was on a bus coming back from a trip out of town. As I was looking out the window at the unfamiliar city, listening to my Walkman, I saw a shop selling televisions. And every one of them was on, showing footage of the Prime Minister of Israel at the time, Yitzhak Rabin.
I thought nothing of it. It was only the next morning, when I picked up the paper, that I found out why: He had been murdered.
I realize I date myself with this blog post–the fact that I didn’t know the news immediately, the fact that there were televisions for sale in the window of a store, the fact that I was listening to a Walkman, all mark me as having lived my 20s in a time that has long since past.
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But something else is much more anachronistic these days, and that is a sense that peace between Israelis and Palestinians is even possible at all.
It breaks my heart to write that–and it is the same heart that soared as I watched Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn with President Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat. I watched the dark clouds of grief, anguish, and sadness battling it out on Rabin’s face, as the general stepped forward, putting his hand out to take the hand of his enemy.
Nowadays, hearts like Richard Lakin’s–an American-born Israeli who devoted his life to Israeli-Palestinian coexistence–are stabbed into silence on the street. You can tell whose “side” you are on in the conflict if you call those who perpetrate such crimes, those who stab men, women, and children on the street, “terrorists” or “just desperate people.”
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Desperate people, however, have two choices. They can fling themselves and those around them into a pit of destruction and violence–or they can reach out with every ounce of strength they have and pull themselves out.
The latter is not easy. In fact, it is the hardest thing someone can do. Rabin exemplified this idea. A lifelong warrior, he put down his arms and put out his hand in the belief that peace–a life somewhere in the future without war–was possible. He was a real person, with fears, anger, and regrets. His triumph lay in that ahead of all those, he put hope.
More damage and destruction and despair has been wrought in the wake of Rabin’s murder. His murderer changed the course of history that fatal night 20 years ago. But as a Jew and as a parent, I cannot allow myself to believe that our world is irrevocably broken.
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I believe we can raise ourselves and our children to bravely embrace hope–and that the Palestinians can do the same. It is the harder, longer road to take. It is the better one.