20 Years On – Melbourne Remembers Yitzhak Rabin z”l

Twenty years ago, the world was shocked by the murder of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin z”l. The Melbourne Jewish community will gather to remember his life and legacy Sunday 25 October, 7:30pm at Beth Weizmann Community Centre. The date coincides with Mr Rabin’s yahrzeit, 12 Cheshvan.

The program will provide an opportunity to reminisce about and honour Yitzhak Rabin’s life, particularly in relation to the history of the State of Israel, with which he was so directly connected and upon which he had so much influence throughout his lifetime. Also recalled will be the difficult period following his assassination, which had a strong impact on a generation of youth, known as the “dor ha’neirot” (generation of the candles) after the candlelight vigils which were held throughout the country.

Rinat Kedem Bart, representative of the Jewish Agency in Australia and New Zealand, was only 14 at that time, but remembers those days very well. “When news came that Rabin was shot, my father and I sat in front of the television, crying, and did not stop crying for a week. We went together that same evening to Rabin’s house, lit candles, and shared the next days with what felt at that time as the entire nation.”

For Kedem Bart, like many Israelis, the assassination of Rabin was a life changing event. Rather than lose hope, dor ha’neirot channelled Rabin’s optimism seeing it as an imperative to work toward the improvement of Israeli society. Kedem Bart says that Rabin’s assassination “made me decide to be politicly active at 14, joining a political youth movement, leading youth, organising rallies etc.”

Another way in which dor ha’neirot responded to the tragedy and attempted to implement Rabin’s vision for Israel was to establish pre-army mechinot to educate the next generation of leaders about the values upon which the country was founded. Betar Shaliach Avi Michaeli was 16 years old at the time of Rabin’s assassination. He was motivated to be an educator and was, most recently, director of Mechinat Gal, one of 48 mechinot in Israel today. “Rabin had a vision that Israel’s security was not dependent only on the strength of the IDF”, says Michaeli. “The strength and optimism of Israeli society was what he believed would keep Israel safe and secure. The mechina system has embued values such as solidarity, tolerance, freedom of speech and human dignity in the leaders of our future.”

The commemoration is being planned by a working group from the Zionism Victoria, AUJS, HaBayit, Jewish Agency Shlichim, UIA, Zionist Federation of Australia and the Zionist Youth Council of Victoria and will include musical presentations, testimonies from community members and Shira B’tzibur (communal singing).

The planning committee is seeking people in the community who may have been at the peace rally in Tel Aviv the night of Rabin’s assassination. Those who were and wish to share their story should contact Daniella Gozlan, dgozlan@zionismvictoria.org.au, 9272 5507 by 12 October.