This afternoon we visited the Israeli Museum and had the pleasure of meeting with Yitzhak Rabin’s daughter, Dalia Rabin. The Museum is intentionally “not a mausoleum” but the living history both of Yitzhak Rabin and of Israel. The decision to tell both stories at once was brilliant as it left me with both a stronger understanding of the role that Rabin played in the modern state of Israel while it also showed the impact of historical developments, both on the state and on Rabin himself.
The museum reminded me of other wonderful museums I have visited that have as a goal to use a particular story or moment to help educate about the importance of tolerance and the value of democracy (the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis come to mind….).
We had a quick and wonderful tour from a guide who also made sure to discuss how she conducts the tours for Israeli teenagers and soldiers. For example, at the photo of the Oslo Accords, she is careful to point out that Bill Clinton is not only the husband of Hillary Clinton, but that he was also President of the United States. The end of the exhibit shows the toxic and dangerous atmosphere in Israel right before Rabin was assassinated. Our guide pointed out signs such as “Rabin is a Traitor” and “Rabin should be murdered.” These signs are used as an example of what was going wrong in Israel at the time and, as she explained, “we want to discuss a legitimate democratic way to have a conversation” with young Israeli visitors. The goal is to help younger Israelis think about how to disagree without calling for violence.
Rabin was the focus of such hate because of the Oslo Accords. It was in connection with those accords, and his clear discomfort at having to work with Yassir Arafat, that Rabin said, “peace you make with your enemies.” Afterall, we don’t generally need to make peace with those we already get along with.
The lessons of this museum are even more relevant today, at a time when so many countries suffer from serious polarization within their societies. This is something that both the US and Israel share.
After our relatively quick tour through the museum we met with Dalia Rabin, a lawyer, and former member of Parliament. She is now the Chair of the Itzhak Rabin Center and she spoke about the need to protect her father’s legacy and to use the museum and Center as a force for positive change in Israeli society.
Ms. Rabin also runs a mediation and arbitration company and spoke to us about how these processes are being used and the potential (and need) to resolve more cases in Israel through mediation and arbitration.
Our conversation ended with Ms. Rabin discussing her views of the prospects for a greater peace. She told us about another Israeli politician who said that “what Israel needs now is another politician willing to give his own life for peace” like Rabin.
Ms. Rabin completely disagreed saying instead that what Israel needs is a leader “who believes in what he is doing, who is willing to take a risk” but not someone willing to sacrifice their life as that should not be necessary. In talking about the future prospects for peace, Ms. Rabin’s parting words to us were “I’m not in the business of giving up.” Ms. Rabin said that her goal, and the goal of the center and the museum is to teach the next generation to be better to better realize all the potential in Israel.