The Dream of Israel: A Land of Our Own
In Israel, according to the Jewish calendar, all holidays begin and end in the evening, at sundown. Therefore the partying on Independence Day in Tel Aviv was only the opening night of the important, historical day for Israel. The next day we explored Jerusalem and learned more about the Israeli’s historical and more recent attempts to achieve peace and independence in the region.
We begun our Yom Ha’atzmaut by gathering in Rabin Square to learn the story of Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli Prime Minister from 1974-1977 and 1992-1995 and large proponent of diplomacy in the ongoing conflicts. He sought to reach amiable agreements and compromises with neighboring countries in an attempt to finally have peace in the land of Israel. Unfortunately, tensions were running high with the recent Intifada, a violent Palestinian infiltration of Israeli borders. Some Israeli nationalist extremists viewed Rabin’s willingness to compromise with the enemy as an act of treason. It was here in the Square of Kings, Tel Aviv, that he gave a moving speech, ending with: “This rally must send a message to the Israeli people, to the Jewish people around the world, to the many people in the Arab world, and indeed to the entire world, that the Israeli people want peace, support peace. For this, I thank you.” It was here in this square, following that speech, closely following his receipt of the Nobel Prize for Peace, that Yithzak Rabin was murdered by one of these extremists, shot 3 times in the back at point blank range as he was entering his vehicle.
The murderer, Yigal Amir, was quickly subdued, but the damage had been done. Possibly the greatest hope for peace and change in Israel in decades had been wiped away, but his message still stood strong. Newly named Rabin Square was quickly filled with pro-Rabin graffiti, vowing to never forget the tragedy and to fight for a better future. As time passed, the local government attempted to wash off the walls in the square and start anew, but the public outcry was immense, claiming the government was trying to wash away the memory. Any cleaning effort made was immediately replaced by more of the same art. Eventually, an agreement was reached. For a new future, the square would be wiped clean, but one wall section of art would remain, that directly closest to the place of the shooting. The most noticeable piece on this wall was the hebrew word “Slicha,” or Sorry, in large blue letters.
Still, here we are. The Israeli people continue to live happy, normal existences in Tel Aviv. They barbeque, party, fly kites, laugh and lounge at the beach. Fighting continues at their borders, and nobody knows when it will end. But for now it is Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independance Day, and it is a time for celebration.
On this day we have visited important places for the most influential leaders of Israel. Theodor Herzel who dreamed of a nation for the Jewish people and wrote a plan for it in Der Judenstaat 1896. David Ben-Gurion, who was a Zionist leader throughout the holocasut, declared independence in 1948, and continued on to lead Israel as its first Prime Minister. And Yitzhak Rabin who tried to lead the Israeli people to peace. Israel has been a nation for 63 years, and it will do everything it can to ensure that its people continue to live the dream of having their own peaceful home.