Jewish Terrorists

My ulpan (Hebrew language class center) held a memorial service for slain former Israeli Prime Minster Yitzhak Rabin on his yarzheit (anniversary of death). I was asked to read a small speech in front of all the students and teachers. His yarzheit always brings up mixed feelings, and choosing to accept the invitation to participate forced me to take a stand, albeit a small one.
And I read:

באנו היום מירושלים, בירת הנצח של עם ישראל.  באנו מארץ, באנו מעם, באנו מבית וממשפחות שלא ידעו שלום.  באנו לנסות לשים סוף לשנאה כדי שילדינו לא ירגישו כאב של מלחמות, טרור ואלימות.  באנו כדי להתפלל ולקוות לשלום.  אנחנו רוצים לפתוח פרק חדש  בספר העצוב שלנו – פרק שבו אנחנו שכנים טובים. א

We came here today to Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people.  We came from a land, from a nation, from homes and from families that don’t know peace.  We came to try to put an end to the hate, so that our children will not feel the pain of war, terror, and violence.  We came in order to pray and to hope for peace.   We want to open a new chapter in the sad story of ours – a chapter in which we are good neighbors.

That was an excerpt from the speech delivered at the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords in Washington, D.C. in 1993, and my own translation.

I was shaken, literally.  Public speaking often makes me terribly nervous.  Emotionally, though, I shuddered thinking about how hopes of peace were dashed.  I was in third grade when the Oslo Accords were signed and in fourth when Rabin was assassinated.  In elementary school, the word “Israel” always conveyed a sense of hope and peace.  We would sing HaTikva, “The Hope,” the Israeli national anthem, at school events.

A classic Jewish song I learned so early on that I don’t remember a time that I didn’t know it goes like this:  עושה שלום במרומיו, הוא יעשה שלום עלינו ועל כל ישראל וימרו אמן     He makes peace on high, he will make peace for us, and all Israel, and let us say Amen

I was touched that at the last ulpan event, for Rosh Hashanah, I heard new Jewish immigrants from all backgrounds, from all over the world, singing that song, together.

It took me back to a time of hope for peace.  Perhaps things just seemed more hopeful because I was so young, and naive.  But as far as I can tell, a general consensus held that there was the potential for agreement, at least.

Last week, as I read that excerpt, I could hold very little hope that Israel will have peace with its neighbors.  Rockets are fired daily into Israel, and extremists from all sides, though few in number, have tremendous impact.  While this is not a political blog, it’s hard to take the politics out of Israel.  It’s everywhere.

The saddest thing, looking back, is not only the inability to move forward with peace negotiations because of a refusal on the part of Palestinians to recognize Israel and terrorist attacks, but also Jewish terrorism.  I know that conspiracy theories abound, but it’s well-known that it was a right-wing Jewish extremist who fatally shot Rabin at a peace rally, of all things.  Regardless of whether or not Rabin was taking the right course of action, his assassination was a hillul Hashem, a desecration of Gd’s name that shamed all Jews and Israel.

Just a few days ago, Israeli authorities nabbed Yaakov Teitel, who is suspected of murder and several attempted murders of Palestinians and left-wing Israelis.

It’s hard to recapture the hope of 1993-94.  Perhaps 15 years from now the collective will realize a certain childishness, too, and we can end these elementary school games.  It’s too simple to think that peace is a sure thing, or that it’s unachievable.  Probably the most that we can hope for is a stable in between.


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Ilene Rosenblum is a writer and marketing professional living in Jerusalem.

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