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We must be the heirs of Rabin’s dream

This essay is part of a collection of essays commemorating the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. The collection was produced in partnership with BINA: The Jewish Movement for Social Change.

“When God returned the exiles of Zion, we were like dreamers” (Psalms 126:1)

On the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, I find myself thinking about dreams and the complexity of life. Rabin was a once in a generation leader who both fought to establish the State of Israel and then 43 years later stood and shook hands with his enemy for the sake of peace. A dreamer of a secure State of Israel and a builder of peace, what today can we still recognize of Rabin’s dreams?

Lauren Holtzblatt

Lauren Holtzblatt

One of Rabin’s greatest legacies was the ability to shift from establishing the State of Israel through a strategy of war to a strategy of peace, saying, “We, like you, are people who want to build a home, to plant a tree, to love, live side by side with you in dignity, in empathy, as human beings, as free men. We are today giving peace a chance.”

Much has changed over the last 25 years. The settlements have grown exponentially under Netanyahu’s government, Israel has suffered a second Palestinian-led intifada, Israel pursued a hopeful exit from Southern Lebanon and Gaza and multiple peace talks have been tried and failed. We are left to wonder, what is left of Rabin’s dream?

There is a story told in the Talmud in tractate Ta’anit about a dreamer named Honi.

Rabbi Yohanan said: “This righteous man (Honi) was troubled throughout his life about the meaning of the verse, ‘A Song of Ascents: When the Lord brought back those that returned to Zion, we were like dreamers’ (Psalms 126:1). Honi asked, “Is it possible for seventy years to be like a dream? How could anyone sleep for seventy years?” One day Honi was journeying on the road and he saw a man planting a carob tree. He asked, “How long does it take for this tree to bear fruit?” The man replied: “Seventy years.” Honi then further asked him: “Are you certain that you will live another seventy years?” The man replied: “I found carob trees in the world; as my forefathers planted those for me so I too plant these for my children.”

Rabin gave us the template for building a new tomorrow even when we cannot yet see the path. His legacy, something which we all inherit, asks each of us to still believe it is possible to build a secure Israel while making peace with her most immediate neighbors.

The seeds of courage, vision and hope that Rabin planted are not lost. In a world filled with rage and chaos, where it is rare to find dreamers and builders, this is the moment to water the seeds Rabin planted and build a secure Israel that leads the region not only in innovation, strength and democracy, but in peace too. May we merit not only to live in the reality of today, but to dream of what tomorrow might hold for us, our children, and the Jewish people.

Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt is co-senior rabbi of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C. Rabbi Holtzblatt hosts a weekly podcast called “Awake: Finding the Holy in the Everyday.”

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