Fifteen years after Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, letting go is the right thing to do.

Opinions about events beyond our borders.
Nov. 4 2010 7:49 AM

Forgetting Rabin

Fifteen years after Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, letting go is the right thing to do.

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However, that kind of message cannot convey the emotion of the murder. It can hardly drive people to attend rallies and marches. It is a message for classrooms, somber official ceremonies, "history books," and, well, even the occasional joke.

Some will see the inevitable decline of Rabin Day as proof that Israel no longer wants peace, or that Israelis' democratic values have eroded, or even that Rabin's murder "was a perfect crime that paid off."

That is nonsense.

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I didn't have many meetings with Rabin; I mostly followed him from the sidelines. But I have a vivid memory of the first time I had the privilege of meeting him. I was very young, 19 or 20 years old, serving at the IDF radio station. At the time, Rabin was the defense minister, and I was tasked with producing an hourlong interview with him to be broadcast on the eve of the Jewish New Year.

I remember going into the meeting room at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, carrying the tapes on which the two anchors would record the interview. And I remember Rabin, a cigarette on the go, looking at them somewhat impatiently. "Does it have to be a whole hour? Can't we just make this a 10-minute interview?" he asked, only half-jokingly.

More than anything else, Rabin was a hands-on, we-have-business-to-do type of leader. He was not a great orator, nor a philosopher king; rather he was the manifestation of everyday, no-nonsense Israeli-ness. He was the rational, secular voice of an Israel that has no impossible dreams but also no messianic fantasies. That was his great charm, and that's why Israelis like me still miss him.

So, forgetting Rabin is no sin. Of course, we shouldn't really forget him—but letting the emotional impact of Rabin Day subside, adjusting his "heritage" to new times and new generations, shortening commemorative ceremonies, doing away with the big rallies, and someday even joking about the assassination? Those are the best ways to remember Rabin the way he really was. It is the right way to honor his legacy of normalcy, to pay tribute to his instinctive resistance to pomposity, to follow in his footsteps.

Correction, Nov. 4, 2010: This piece originally used the wrong year for Yitzhak Rabin's murder. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

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Shmuel Rosner is a Tel Aviv-based columnist. He blogs daily at Rosner's Domain.