Empty Plaza

I was not expecting to break down. I’d been to Israel many times. I’d talked about Rabin and his life, his work, like many other people, dozens and dozens of times.

But something happened as I was staffing another Birthright tour. There was something about walking to the stairs by the plaza where Rabin was assassinated that made me lose it. It was not the make shift, innocent memorials or the graffiti praising his name. Nor was it the empty utilitarian plaza itself, the open space just seemed very 70’s and reassuring in that quintessentially Israeli way. And it wasn’t even the heartbreaker that usually got me: the fact that Rabin was killed wearing shir lashalom in his breast pocket, that the bullet tore right through a song for peace as if it wasn’t even there.

No, what made it impossible for me to speak, what hit me with full force in the brightness of the vacated plaza was the understanding of what we had lost. How could I even begin to explain to these students what we had once held in our hands? Now they might never feel what we had once had felt -- that peace was just there right in front of us, that it was so real, we had little doubt it would soon come to fruition. I think I cried that day from the wide and terrible valley between what was on the day he died and what had come to be.

Twenty years later, I pay my deepest respects to the family of Yitzchak Rabin z”l who was a hero in every sense. I offer my condolences to his loved ones and to the Israelis who worked with him and who voted for him. But my personal grief is selfish and unresolved. I grieve the path untaken, the path stolen away, the lost years.

And yet, I take heart in this: History will not remember Rabin not only by what he did but also by what he was prepared to do. And so, rather than despair what has been done, I am also prepared to do. On this day I recommit myself to the thousands of those who are working on behalf of what-isn’t-yet, because it could still come-to-be. I’ll get back in line to help.

And I’ll also put a copy of shir lashalom / the song for peace in my front coat pocket where it belongs. It won’t protect me or you from death or disappointment, but at least we’ll remember where it is we want to go. 

-Rabbi Noa Kushner, November 4, 2015