Nov. 4 marked 25 years since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. The former military chief and two-time prime minister won a Nobel Peace Prize for signing the landmark 1993 Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
After he was gunned down in Tel Aviv by a Jewish ultranationalist in 1995, peace talks foundered, and a year later, Israelis elected nationalist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to his first three-year term. He returned to power in 2009 and has remained there since, with allegations of prime ministerial corruption, not peacemaking, dominating the national agenda.
Now, as protests rage across Israel and demonstrators demand that “Bibi” resign – not only because of corruption, but also his botched handling of the pandemic – The Globe and Mail asked Israelis to reflect on Mr. Rabin’s legacy.
Ms. Levi is 16, the daughter of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. On Oct. 29, she painted her arms and legs with peace signs and joined thousands of others for a memorial event in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, the site of Mr. Rabin’s assassination, where they lit 25,000 candles. “The discourse is full of hatred, and there is incitement on the part of the government, and both sides do not want to listen,” she says. But there is hope, too: Ms. Levi has become friends online with two girls her age, a Lebanese girl from Beirut and a Palestinian from Ramallah. A quarter-century ago, relationships like that weren’t so easy to make – but on social media, there are no borders or separation walls.
Di Katz Shahar
“I remember vividly the day Rabin was shot,” says the 37-year-old American-Israeli, who lives in Jaffa, a part of Tel Aviv where Jews and Arabs live together. “I think we have come a long way from that point – but in the opposite direction. All these years, I was hoping we could find peace with the Palestinians, and now – can we even find peace within ourselves?” Ms. Shahar, a public health educator and fitness trainer, says she’s thrilled that Joe Biden won the U.S. election. “I think that the leader of the strongest nation in the world needs to have a moral compass, and Trump does not,” she says. “I feel like America sets the tone for Israel, and with Trump losing the election, now maybe there is a ray of light.”
Israel’s Arab population accounts for about one-fifth of its nine million people. Most of them are descendants who remained after the 1948 war that broke out over Israel’s foundation. For them, opportunities aren’t equal in a country that defines itself as the Jewish state. “I do have greater opportunities today in comparison to my parent’s generation, but as Arabs, we face racial discrimination by the government because we are Arabs and a minority,” says Ms. Daibes, a 22-year-old Muslim nursing student from the northern town of Nahef (pictured with a friend). “I have been stopped on the street by security asking to search my bag just because of who I am. Do I look dangerous?”
At the same time, she says, "my generation is more concerned about our academic results and finding a good job than we are about a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Savit Askia, 40, immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia 30 years ago and lives in the southern city of Ashkelon, near Gaza. She supports the anti-government protests. “The older Ethiopian generation loves Netanyahu, but my generation, and the younger ones in my community, are thinking that we want a prime minister who can be a leader for everyone in the country,” she says. She adds that she has been a victim of racism herself, which she finds especially galling, since she served her country in the military, pays taxes and owns her own spice shop. “We will never be treated equally unless there are drastic changes,” Ms. Askia says. She has dual tattoos on her ankles: a map of Israel on her right and a map of Ethiopia on her left. “The Ethiopian immigrants will always feel we have feet in both countries.”
A 59-year-old Christian Arab from Ramle, Mr. Elraheb is co-owner of the Jaffa Bookstore, which sells books in Hebrew, Arab and English, and hosts cultural events that bring together Arabs and Jews. He has Israeli citizenship but identifies as Palestinian – just like his father and grandfather, who were born in prestate Palestine. “This is also my home and land,” he says, criticizing a recent law that declares Israel “the nation-state of the Jewish people,” while omitting a commitment to full equality for all citizens. “How can it be that the nation-state law declared Hebrew as the only official language?’” he asks. “If there was a Palestinian state created somewhere else in the world, I would not go there. Here is my home. This is my land and the land of my ancestors.”
Mr. Maman is an ultraorthodox Jewish father of five and chief executive of a shipping startup called Transit. The 35-year-old recently travelled to Dubai to meet with potential investors – part of a wave of Israelis travelling to the Arab nation for the first time (he’s pictured proudly holding up his e-ticket to Dubai at Ben Gurion Airport in Lod). If Mr. Rabin had lived, he says, he would have ended the conflict. He advocates a one-state solution that would put Palestinians and Israelis under a single sovereign power. “I was born in Lod, a mixed city, and I know the Arabs. I know we can live together,” he says. “The real question is about this land. What I know from the Bible, this land is our land that God gave us. The reality is there are also Arabs here, and we have to find a way to live in peace and without the violence.”
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.
Build your personal news feed
- Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
- Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.