Tel Aviv — About a year before Guy Ben-Simon was born, his parents attended the Tel Aviv rally where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.
It was a night of shock and sadness, they recalled for him while he was growing up. They had called all of their friends, telling those who had not heard that the prime minister had been killed.
“They cried,” said Guy, 16, repeating his parents’ story. “Everyone cried. It was very hard to unite after that because something bad had happened.”
Guy is now a member of HaNoar Ha’Oved V’HaLomed, a left-wing youth group traditionally tied to Rabin’s Labor Party. He’s also part of a cohort of Israelis born after the Nov. 4, 1995 assassination who have no firsthand memory of Rabin’s killing and are learning about it as part of history.
Seventeen years on, Rabin’s assassination is refracted through the lens of contemporary Israel, taught and remembered in different ways depending on who is doing the teaching. In youth movements and in schools, his killing offers a lesson in the dangers of ideological extremism.
“You don’t really talk about Rabin the person,” said Hadar Pardo, 23, one of Guy’s youth group counselors. “You talk to them about seeing peace and trying to make peace even if it’s not part of your everyday life.”
In a sign of the changed political landscape in Israel, where even the left has shifted away from emphasis on negotiations with the Palestinians, Rabin’s official commemoration this year emphasized not peace but the importance of the democratic process. Some 20,000 people attended the Oct. 27 memorial, which highlighted the dangers of the “price tag” movement – a strategy adopted by a group of extremist Israeli settlers who deface and destroy Arab property and holy sites in retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions, or for Palestinian attacks on Jews.
Pardo, who attended the commemoration at the site where Rabin was killed – now called Rabin Square – said she, too, focuses on democracy rather than peace in discussing the assassination with her students.