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19http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2010/10/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---10_22_2010
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 10_22_2010
10/21/2010 01:20 PM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
October 22, 2010

 

                On November 4, 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by the hands of a right-wing Israeli radical who was opposed to Rabin’s signing of the Oslo Accords. Now, fifteen years later, we remember Rabin as Time magazine’s Man of the Year, and as a Nobel Peace Prize winner. We also remember him for the steps he took for the sake of peace, a lasting peace.

                We learned a lot from Rabin in his lifetime, and his lessons are not lost on us even now. Rabin understood that economic strength was a key to peace. He said, “Practically the only way to dry the swamp of radical Islam is through economic development and an improved standard of living.” It’s like what a leading businessman once told me, “A person who is desperate is dangerous; so give him something.” It can be a man who threatens you on the corner, but it can also be a people threatening you on your borders. Rabin wanted peace and he knew that people felt secure about their future only when they believed that the future they envisioned for themselves was attainable. Without economic opportunity there was no possibility for any vision to take hold. Today, in certain places in the West Bank there is real economic development. The people are more secure and their expectations for the future are consistent with their visions.

                Rabin wasn’t the first or the last one to equate peace with economic development. But, he believed in the importance of the equation because he was willing and able to see things as they were and as they should be. He was prepared to provide the link to get from the past to the future through cooperative and reasonable means. Rabin said, “We must think differently, look at things in a different way. Peace requires a world of new concepts, new definitions.” Indeed, Rabin was willing to do what it took to offer economic, humane, and reasonable means for the sake of peace.

                But, Rabin wasn’t naïve. He also said, “You don’t make peace with friends. You make it with very unsavory enemies.” His aim was peace. He knew who sat on the other side of the negotiating table and what they thought of him. That was the least of his concern. He came to make peace, not friends.

                In fifteen years, the world has changed a lot. After September 11, 2001, in the U.S, and the Intifada in the Middle East, the world was aflame in new efforts to identify the enemy, let alone make peace with them. There was angst and bloodshed from one end of the world to the other. We were a world at war whether or not we were willing to admit it. I wish I could say that 15 years has given us perspective, but I can’t. It has provided us hindsight, but it hasn’t illuminated for us any new and insightful answers, and it hasn’t shaped a new generation of statesman and world leaders of note. We are mired in failures to find peace.

                I’m not a pessimist. I exercise what Barbara Ehrenreich (whom I quoted on Rosh Hashanah from her book Bright Sided) calls “defensive pessimism.” It is realism plus pessimism, and she calls it a “prerequisite for survival.” Indeed, our Judaism demands that we see our lives as they are, and to participate in making them into what they should be. We do not have the privilege to wallow in our sorrow or to accept things as they are given to us.

                Armed with a world-view and the privilege of hindsight, it is incumbent upon us to honor the memory of Yitzhak Rabin. He spoke wisely about the world as he found it in his lifetime, and he taught us about his vision for peace and what we can do about it. Just because he is gone does not deprive us of his gifts to us. Judaism teaches, “A jewel that is lost, remains a jewel forever.” In the absence of great statesmen, today, let’s dust off the wisdom of a not so distant past and reflect on the jewel that was Rabin’s life, a man of peace and a statement for all time. Let’s not let the act of extremists in the Middles East, Jew or Arab, deprive us of his vision. Peace is what we want. Peace is what we need.

                As Shabbat enters our homes and our hearts, reflect on the memory of Yitzhak Rabin, a man who knew we could do better and who gave his life to the vision he saw for his enemies and his friends.

                From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

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