Twenty Years

As you have read on this blog, I am still fascinated more than 50 years later by the assassination of President Kennedy. In addition to the many books and magazines that I have, I also have several clippings of poignant pieces that have appeared in various places over the years. One of those clippings is of a comic strip from the “Arlo and Janis” series. In this comic, which appeared on November 22, 1988, Arlo walks through the house with a sad look on his face, wandering from room to room in silence, ending up on the back porch stairs saying the simple words: “twenty five years”.

For all of us who remember the JFK assassination, watching the years go by reminds us that we are, in fact, that many years older. We perhaps speculate a bit as to how the world might have changed had President Kennedy lived but I think that for most of us, the assassination’s impact is one of the horror of a particular day in our lives, the desire to know for sure what really happened in Dallas, and the number of years that have passed since that moment.

Tomorrow, November 4, is the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin Z’L. While, like with our reaction to the JFK assassination, it is hard to believe that 20 years have passed and to think of how quickly the years have flown by, the “speculation” piece is perhaps much more vital to the observance of the anniversary. Twenty years ago, we seemed to be on the verge of an agreement to bring an end to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people. Now, twenty years later, we still see terror, we still see oppression, we still see the conflict and see little hope for the peace for which Rabin gave his life. It is hard not to imagine where we would be had Rabin lived.

As I have said from the bima twice during the past few weeks, I recognize without question that many people thought that the entire process of Oslo and the thoughts of a “two state solution” were misguided from the beginning. Many criticized Rabin for the steps that he took and it is possible that had he lived, the peace process would have collapsed or led to even more tension and danger for Israel. I accept that that would have been a possibility.

But, it is also possible that it would have worked. It is possible that had Rabin lived, Israelis and Palestinians would have found a way to live in peace with each other. It is possible that economic and cultural ties would have developed. It is possible that we would now be seeing an entirely different reality in Israel and Palestine.

There is no way to know which of these scenarios would have taken place. But, what we do know is that the horrendous, obscene act of one man inspired by teachers who preached violence in the name of Torah and in the name of God diminished the possibilities of peace.

I have heard from both Jews and Palestinians here in this country and from Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East that they feel the 2 state solution is dead. For many on both sides, this is good news as they feel that such a solution would have been dangerous as it would have required them to trust the other side  and to believe that compromise was worthwhile.

If it is true that the 2 state solution is dead, I would ask: what is the option? Is what we are seeing now: indiscriminate, unjustified and uncivilized violence against innocent Israelis and retaliation and further restrictions on an already frustrated Palestinian people devoid of hope the way of the future? If the 2 state solution is dead, what solution is there?

For now, I pray that israel will protect its citizens and respond in a measured way to violence. For now, I pray that the Palestinian leadership would refrain from preaching hatred and revenge. That might calm the situation to an extent in the weeks and months to come.

But, I see nothing happening now which makes me think that 5 years from now, we won’t be sitting and shaking our heads at the fact that 25 years have passed and Yitzchak Rabin’s dream, a dream shared by so many of us, will still not have been achieved.

I pray I am wrong.

May the memory of Yitzchak Rabin be for a blessing and may Israelis and Palestinians find a way to a real, lasting, strong peace.

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