Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Shalom Chaver, Goodbye, friend."

So, after a bad nights sleep I miraculously managed to get up at 5 AM to go to Shul. Night owl as I am, you still gotta admit that there is something special about early mornings, before the sun has rose above the horizon. A cool stillness, empty streets, already warm but not yet hot, the day waiting to kick in.

Merkaz Klita Yeelim, 6 AM
After Shul I went to the usual coffee shop for my morning cup of cafe afuch (literally backwards coffee, basically a latte) at the coffee and tobacco stand. The owners are two olim from France who have been here for 15 years. They are very nice people and at Ulpan break a line of coffee abstinent students form a line here, but at this early hour the customers are far between.

The nice lady who makes my morning afuch
Today was the 12th of the Jewish month Cheshvan and the 15th anniversary of the murder of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. A lot of people nowadays, while commemorating his death, write off the Oslo process as a historical parenthesis, that was doomed to failure from the outset. There are valid arguments to make that point, but human memory is short, and what people forget is just how much the earth shook under those few years. They forget how people on both sides were filled with hope and excitement (as well as, no doubt, fears and worries). A peace treaty was signed with Jordan. Yasser Arafat came back from exile in Tunis, to a welcome worthy of a semi-god. A friend of mine spent one of his army years doing joint security patrols with PLO soldiers (!), and learnt Arabic in the process, cause as he said: "They were very proud people. They spoke perfect Hebrew, but as our (!) closest officer was an Arab, they refused to speak it." Today hope is gone, and it's hard to remember that it ever existed. And it's very easy to focus on the mistakes that where made, that it was all a castle in the sky, built on unattainable dreams, by dreamers. It's easy to say that Yasser Arafat was nothing but a terrorist (and that he was, worst kind), and that he never dreamt of peace. But it is also possible that he dreamed of peace, and simply chickened out when Rabin was murdered. In either case he then let his henchmen bomb Oslo to smithereens and that was that. Today the lefties and Peaceniks have successfully co-opted Rabin's legacy and they have spun layer after layer of mythology on top of it. This has made the Rabin memorial, and specifically it's content, a contentious matter in Israel. But the truth is that Rabin was neither a lefty nor a peacenik, neither hawk nor dove. Rabin was a hawk. A peace hawk. That is what made him unique, and that is why Arabs as well as Jews trusted him. Finally, the truth is that we will never know what would have happened if Rabin had lived. And that is a great loss.

So Ulpan today started with a talk about Rabin and his legacy. Later there was a short memorial, which carefully avoided an over-politizised discourse. Young Russian Olim took turns reading facts in Hebrew about his life and work, friends and hobbies, likes and dislikes. A few songs were played. It was solemn, but still very every-day life - no big gestures, no sentimentality. A couple of the youngster had a tear or two in their eyes, and then that was that.

Afterwords we delved once again into the mysteries of Hebrew future tense and counterfactual imperfect statements. And this is what I'll keep doing the rest of the night. So with the words of President Clinton at the graveside of Yitzchak Rabin, Im signing off for today:

"Shalom Chaver, Goodbye Friend."

Yitzchak Rabin 1922-1995

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