On November 4, 1995, I was traveling from the southern rim of the Grand Canyon to the less frequented Eastern Rim where one can see far into Navajo territory, all the way to the edge of the Painted Desert. I know this with such certainty because it was at that moment when the news of Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s death came over the car radio. I was stunned – as I’m sure many of us were – there in the middle of the Grand Canyon, in the midst of all that beauty – the kind of beauty so intense it brings tears to your eyes – I was stunned, and I was stung, deeply wounded, that Rabin’s death was an assassination, that he was murdered at a peace rally at the hands of a fellow Jew.
This week marks the 20th yahrzeit of Yitzhak Rabin, soldier, general, statesman, noble peace prize laureate. In 1994, he signed a peace treaty with Israel’s neighbor, Jordan. In September 1993, under President Clinton’s Administration, Rabin signed the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles, also known as the Oslo Peace Accords, along with Palestinian leader, Yassir Arafat. As renewed violence erupts yet again in Israel, we – Arab and Jew alike, and indeed the whole world – would do well to remember his words on that September day on the White House lawn:
This signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles, here today, is not so easy neither for myself, as a soldier in Israel’s wars, nor for the people of Israel, not to the Jewish people in the Diaspora who are watching us now with great hope, mixed with apprehension. It is certainly not easy for the families of the victims of the wars, violence, terror, whose pain will never heal…. Let me say to you, the Palestinians…. We, the soldiers who have returned from battle stained with blood, we who have seen our relatives and friends killed before our eyes, we who have attended their funerals and cannot look into the eyes of their parents, we who have come from a land where parents bury their children, we who have fought against you, the Palestinians – We say to you today in a loud and a clear voice: Enough of blood and tears. Enough. We have no desire for revenge. We harbor no hatred towards you. We, like you, are people who want to build a home, to plant a tree, to love, to live side by side with you in dignity, in empathy, as human beings, as free men. We are today giving peace a chance, and saying again to you: Enough. Let us pray that a day will come when we all will say: Farewell to the arms.
Rabin concluded his remarks with words we all know: Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya-aseh shalom, aleinu v’al kol Yisrael, v’imru, Amen. May the One who makes peace in the heavens make peace over us and over all Israel, and let us say, Amen. May all who dwell in Israel – the Israelis and the Palestinians – now say, “Enough of blood and tears.” May they find their way to peace. And let us say, Amen.