1995 feels like ancient history.
Sixteen years ago I was finishing up high school, spending a lot of my time playing NHL 94 or Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega Genesis, and on most weekends could be found driving my 1989 Toyota Camry wagon back and forth to visit camp and USY friends on the South Shore.
I still remember those days fondly, but my life before college, before marriage, and before kids in many ways exists now only in pictures, yearbooks, and old songs in my iTunes account. They were good times, for sure, but each year I feel more and more distant from them.
One Saturday evening in November 1995, though, will forever be seared into my memory. I was watching TV when the news anchor broke in to announce a developing story- that Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister of Israel, had been assassinated in Tel Aviv.
I remember that moment clearly. I remember being stunned that news from Israel would be important enough to warrant a special report. I remember not really comprehending the gravity of the moment at the time, but at the same time realizing that something historic and tragic had just happened. I remember the shock of a Jewish extremist killing a fellow Jew based on a skewed interpretation of Jewish law.
Not too long after that I remember Bill Clinton’s famous words “Shalom, Chaver,” at Rabin’s funeral and the black-and-white CD compilation with those words as the title that became the playlist at Ramah that summer. Songs like Uf Gozal and Tachzor Tachzor, or Ha’ish Ha’hu and Sha’ar HaRachamim, took on entirely new meanings to all of us following the assassination. I remember how Shir LaShalom became an anthem again for American Jews, and the image of the blood-soaked lyrics being found in Rabin’s pocket. Over the years, that CD has remained the most influential album of my lifetime.
This Wednesday was the 12th of Cheshvan- the sixteenth anniversary of the Rabin assassination on the Hebrew calendar. While we don’t observe a fast or commemorate the event like we do for the Fast of Gedaliah, a day that also marks the anniversary of a tragic Jew-killing-Jew assassination, it’s a day that should be remembered for as long as we mark time and live by the Jewish calendar. Rabin was a legitimate hero, a general-turned-statesman whose heroic deeds in both war and peace will be forever remembered in the history of Israel and the Jewish people.