Tuesday, November 3, 2015

20 years to the murder of Yitzchak Rabin..a personal account

I was married on June 22nd, 1992. The following day, june 23rd, was my 23rd birthday. I loved the convergence of numbers, anniversaries of birth and re-birth ...that was the main reason for choosing that date, but there was also another one: June 23rd, 1992, was election day in Israel, which is traditionally a day off . We wanted people to stay up late and dance with us into the night without worrying about how they would get up in the morning…so, it seemed perfect!

The wedding was indeed a joyous affair, friends and family galore, and to top it off , the next day, we were treated to another wonderful gift: Yitzhak Rabin’ Labour Party gained the majority of the votes, enabling him to construct a coalition and become prime minister.

3 years passed. Asher and I moved to a tiny new apartment in Tel Aviv, nurtured it lovingly, and struggled to pay rent. Asher competed medical school, my career as a singer was gaining enormous momentum…and most importantly...Yitzchak Rabin was taking Israel courageously into a what promised to be an exciting, hope-filled new future. Rabin was making peace!

It started in 1987 with the Intifada, the revolt of Arabs living in Gaza and the west bank against the ongoing Israeli Occupation and its dire ramifications. The uprise included multiple forms of civil disobedience, stone and molotov bottle throwing and other aggression, and lead to hundreds of lost lives and many thousands of injuries, as the Israeli military retaliated. Rabin had initially made very firm statements against the intifada, instructing the military to “break their arms and legs..”….but then, he had a change of heart and mind. This enlightenment, this deep realization that without peace the cycle of blood would go on forever, this change of perspective that only a leader as courageous and honest as Rabin could initiate, gave birth to the Oslo Accords, which were signed  in 1993 and awarded Rabin, Peres, Clinton and Arafat with the Nobel Prize for Peace. Two States for two people, Israel alongside Palestine….who would have believed, finally it was going to happen! Nearly a 100 years of violent conflict were poised to reach their end, long overdue!

The days were  highly charged…there was enormous tension in the air. The majority of Israelis believed in the peace process wholeheartedly and could hardly contain their excitement and anticipation as it slowly came to fruition. Investments started flowing into Israel,  bus loads of tourists came to behold the miracle in the desert, world leaders visited,  praising and blessing the fledgling accords..it was a time full of wonder and replete with hope…everything was possible!

But not all of Israel’s citizens shared this enthusiasm: quite the opposite. Rabin’s political rivals on the right were seething. The messianic rabbis and their followers, the settlers and their extreme religious-nationalist leadership, and an array of others who found the idea of a Palestinian state between abhorrent and sacrilegious, went on a horrible crusade against Rabin. The incitement was appalling. Rabin was called a traitor; he was cursed, harassed and threatened. At the pinnacle of this criminal incitement against him, during a demonstration in Jerusalem , Rabin  was pictured in a Nazi SS soldier’s uniform, and the angry, violent mob yelled: Death to Rabin ! At that same demonstration, political leaders from the right stood on the terrace, in the fashion of dukes and princes of the middle  ages, and smiled approvingly as the mob erupted with hatred, like burning lava.

One of the politicians on the terrace  with a big smile spread across his face, was Binyamin Netanyahu.

Flash back to the land of hope. The city of Tel Aviv decided to organize a huge rally in support of the Oslo Accords. Shlomo Lahat, Tel Aviv’s legendary mayor, contacted me through my management, asking if I would agree to perform at the rally. I was a rising star at the time, already very popular and filling large halls. I was honored to have been approached and immediately agreed. He asked if I was willing to have my name on the billboards advertising the rally, I was quick to say: of course! Anything that will help bring the crowds and support peace!

I remember driving through Tel Aviv on the days prior to the rally, seeing those billboards, and wondering: where are all the big names that should have been there? Where are all the stars?
None were written on the announcement. (small red light should have gone off in my head, but..i was, as so many were then…in a state of euphoria…)

The night of the rally was magnificent, hundreds of thousand showed up, waving flags and banners, supporting Rabin and Peres vociferously, sending waves of good energy their way. It was a spectacular sight to see. Gil Dor, Zohar Fresco and myself   performed three songs and felt a surge of energy and excitement over come us…we were thrilled!!

We stayed after our show, listening to some other performers and to some of the speeches, and just as Rabin joined Miri Aloni to sing “song for peace”, in his raspy voice, endearingly and completely out of tune ,  we decided to leave the square and get a head start home, preceding the crowds who would spill into the surrounding streets and clog them.

We walked down the stairs, to where our car was parked.
The very same stairs, that a few moments later Rabin was to descend, on his way to a horrible death, shot three times in the back by the murderer Yigal Amir: Israel’s first political assassination and one that was to change her history forever.

I remember where I was when I found out….

I had decided to go to my grandmother’s apartment in the south of Tel Aviv, to give her a hug before I drove home. As I walked into her apartment, in the old Yemenite neighborhood near the Carmel market, I saw her staring at the TV screen, tears running down her face.
“They killed him! They murdered him ! those bastards! ” she kept repeating again and again at the top of her voice.

I was shocked, I couldn’t breathe.

Millions  mourned him, vigils were set up at the square, lighting candles, singing softly. I sang at all the memorials, barely able to extract a clear voice from a throat choked with tears. Droves of people ascended the mountains to Jerusalem, to pass by his grave and pay him last respect…numerous monuments and edifices were named after him, including the square where he was murdered, and a glorious building erected in his memory, dedicated to educating for tolerance and democracy.…

But not all mourned, not all throats choked with tears. In the shadows, there was much rejoicing, thanking of the Lord for the removal of the Satan Rabin, and self-satisfied chuckling and rubbing of hands…

Palestinian extremists, realizing their hopes of independence had been shot three times in the back by Yigal Amir and buried along with Rabin, resorted to terror and suicide bus bombings .Israel was blasted back in time to the middle ages, and the political, nationalist, messianic right, swords swinging, war songs emerging from their cracked throats, rose into power and embarked on the first and longest Jewish crusade in history…that has brought us to this day….

…20 years later.

The man on the terrace had fulfilled the Biblical prophecy: “did you murder, then inherit?”

After 20 years of intermittent rule Netanyahu, with a little help from his friends, has almost single handed, destroyed Israel, trampling our hopes for peace under the stiff boot of messianic nationalism run amok. He has transformed Yitzchak Rabin’s dream of a peaceful, prosperous, democratic Israeli society living aside an independent, free Palestine,  into a paranoid, racist, messianic, extremist, xenophobic, violent, arrogant, ignorant, ethnocentric nightmare.

He has continued using his well-honed tactic of incitement to instill fear and self-righteousness into the hearts of the masses, securing his recurrent re-elections and ensuing privileges as he preys on these most base emotions.  He has fed the monster of religious extremism to his own political gain, given Israeli citizens a personal example of conniving, tale-spinning, slippery conduct, coupled with a clear penchant for the good life at the expense of the common working man and woman’s hard earned tax money….such stark and tragic contrast to Yitzchak Rabin’s modesty and reticence.

Netanyahu, who stood on the terrace and smiled as the blood thirsty crowd roared, has become the “Big Dictator” in the Chaplin film: full of himself and paranoid at the same time, driven by a warped, dangerous vision of Israel’s future, seeped in dishonesty, contradiction and feeble leadership, committing generations, with his actions and reactions, to an eternity of  bloodshed .

Some believe Netanyahu will eventually bring peace, that he is still able to change heart and mind, as Rabin did. I once wanted to believe so...but i am no longer able to fool myself.  Netanyahu has betrayed this nation. He has put his considerable talents of oration, political savvy and purported intelligence, in service of self-glorification and religious , nationalist extremism, at the expense of every single principle upon which Israel was founded to begin with. I fail to see how this man can ever emerge from the dark pit he has thrown himself, and all of us, into. maybe i am wrong, but i believe the solution will come from somewhere, and someone, else. 

 As for me, since 1995 I have been speaking out. I have been fighting that battle that Rabin lost, that Rabin gave his life for. I too have been giving…not my life (yet..), but much of my well-being and comfort, my popularity and personal gain. I have given all of these things lovingly, for the sake of future generations, for the sake of what is left of the soul of this once-beautiful place. I do this by singing for peace, volunteering, speaking out, writing, and supporting the endless organizations that do the thankless, diligent job of building bridges every possible way, making sure their voices are heard!

 There is a ray of light that keeps stubbornly seeping into the darkness of my heart, lighting up that patch on the ground where grass insists on growing even in the shadows, where a song is born despite the numbing silence : The place of hope. That voice keeps telling me: Things will change, the pendulum will swing, focus on the good people, focus on the positive action, be patient and selfless as you build, educate, communicate, believe in the power of change. Focus on all that’s right, keep your chin up, and keep going.

20 years have passed since Yitzchak Rabin’s murder, and 23 since the day of our marriage. Asher and I  have three beautiful children now….it is for them that I write these words, for them to know and remember, for them to carry in their hearts like a beacon, long after I am gone. 


  1. Dear Noa,
    Rabin was for the whole world a sign of hope ... not only for Israel and it was murdered. My israelian friend Efraim Joel (God bless him) already said (in german, old german he was): "Gnade Israel Gott, wenn Netanyahu an die Regierung kommt", that means Israel will driven into hell, if Netanyahu becomes chief of government, and only the mercy of god will Israel help. Was Efraim right? Was the old man right, who survive the times of the Nazis? You know it better than me.
    Somewhere and sometimes there is a remaining of hope and maybe it´s a good time to hear a song of you, surely a song of hope, I believe...

    Sending power and hope to you,

    Rio Kreutzfeldt

  2. It was another joy to see your post. It is such an important topic and ignored by so many, even professionals. I thank you to help making people more aware of possible issues. Great stuff as usual...

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