Two Memories, One Murder; Two Peoples, One State

My first memory is being strapped into a gas mask by my mother. It was the winter of ’91, I was barely four years old, and Israel was being attacked by an Arab leader as punishment for the American invasion of Iraq.

My first political memory took place four days before my eighth birthday, when Yitzhak Rabin was gunned down by a man who decided he — above the rest of the nation — deserved more than just his vote.

We did not celebrate my birthday that year with much spirit. My parents bought me a memorial candle with Rabin’s picture; I carried it with me to every house and apartment I have lived in since, to remember the sacrifice of the warrior turned peacemaker.

The memorial candle on my nightstand (2013)

I am a member of the Oslo Generation. My cohorts and I were born into the tumult of the Intifada, but raised throughout the peace process. From our earliest days we were taught to believe in compromise and to accept that we are not conquerors: my generation expected to live in peace.

After two-thousand years of meek existence, the nation of Israel was negotiating from a position of power. After centuries of external subjugation and forced migrations, we were in control over our own fortunes; we had no wish to rule over others.

The handshake seen round the world, in the lush green of the most famous house in the world, was to guarantee peaceful coexistence. It did not. From within and without, Israel was besieged by forces of hate and belligerence. It did not begin with the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, but no other event was as symbolic.

Thirty years after Leon Klinghoffer, a disabled Jewish American was killed by Palestinian hijackers and thrown overboard the Achille Lauro — showing tensions reached across borders and nationalities — and twenty years after the life of an Israeli icon — whose acts towards peace were known worldwide — was viciously ended for having the courage to change and believe in a better future, the conflict still has no end in sight.

But we have also fundamentally changed in that period of time. Israelis have hardened, while some cite the psychological toll of Palestinian terror, others point to the failure to uphold the socialist ethos that guided the Jewish State from mere conception to hard-won creation, but the end result is the same: we have changed as a nation, and not for the better.

On college campuses across America and in newspapers around the world, our hasbara efforts never fail to mention the absence of a partner for peace on the other side of the table. But we rarely talk about our own shortcomings. We rarely admit to our fears of the other.

Instead, we have hardened, and we have turned inwards. As a member of the Oslo generation, born into fire but raised on hope, how far we have fallen shatters the collective soul of a people whose faith in their shared tradition kept their community together even as the vicious ages of history tried to tear them asunder.