Where I was the night Rabin was assassinated
In August of 1995 my husband and three-year old daughter and I arrive in Jerusalem for a year’s sabbatical and study. From the time we landed we were caught up in the tense atmosphere of the city and entire country which was highly intensified for us when my husband’s classmate from the Melton Senior Educator’s program, Joan Davenny z”l was killed when a suicide bomber blew up the bus on which she was riding to attend their first week of class.
The evening Rabin was assassinated was a quiet one in our apartment. We had no television and were listening to the peace rally on the radio- regretful that we did not go to participate. I’d fallen asleep on the couch when my husband woke me to tell me Rabin had been shot and we sat nervously until the terrible news was announced. Over and over we heard the news, the recording the clip of the announcement outside of Ichilov Hospital. We felt sick, nauseous, and a bit confused as ‘visitors’ of the country, only in Israel for a year (that time.) This feeling stuck with me as the days continued and the weeks and months passed.
How did I, an American Jew, fit into the picture? Was this the assassination of my Prime Minister? Was I entitled to mourn as the native-born Israelis around me mourned? In reality these questions didn’t matter since the mourning was instinctive, natural, overwhelming and raw. As individuals and as a collective we mourned. The day after we did not even know what we were supposed to do, the streets were quiet. People passed one another in silence, we met each other’s eyes and did not look away.
After aimlessly walking to my ulpan, not even sure if it was meeting, we spoke and shared our feelings, a group of us either olim chadashim or visitors, Jewish and non-Jews, from all over the world, part of the tragedy and also not of it. Some of us walked to the Knesset following class and for the first time since I’d been in Israel the crowd did not push, it moved quietly and respectfully and each person passed the body of Yitzchak Rabin, z”l, and it didn’t matter if you were born in Israel or if you were visiting.
Twelve years later we made Aliyah. I do not exaggerate when I say that the events of 1995-6 and the assassination of Rabin were a significant influence in our decision. These events did not deter us but, rather, strengthened our resolve to be here and to be able to be truly part of this collective.