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November 9, 2011 By:
A Youthful Tribute to Rabin
Ari Carroll was just a year old on Nov. 4, 1995, the day that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was struck down by an assassin's bullet.
Needless to say, the 17-year-old Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School senior has no memories of that seismic event in Israeli history that is still reverberating today.
Yet through his involvement with the Habonim Dror (Builders of Freedom) of North America, the Labor Zionist Youth Movement, he says he has learned about Rabin and how the hardened warrior and Zionist pioneer became an emissary for peace.
Still, the member of Beth Am Israel in Penn Valley said he had never realized the extent of the vitriol directed at the prime minister by Israelis who opposed the Oslo Accords and the peace process. He'd never seen the images of Jewish protesters holding signs that showed Rabin wearing a Nazi uniform.
After taking part in a Habonim Dror-organized ceremony on Sunday marking Rabin's 16th yahrzeit -- which delved into the societal rifts that plagued Israel at the time -- Carroll said he realized that Rabin's story serves as a cautionary tale about the use of violent rhetoric and the demonization of those who hold opposing views.
Young American Jews, he said, "should know what happened. They need to know who Rabin was."
Habonim Dror is an international youth organization with ties to the secular kibbutz movement in Israel. In the Philadelphia area, Habonim's major institution is Camp Galil, a Bucks County summer camp that organizes activities throughout the year for families and high school and college students.
A group of roughly a dozen college students -- many of whom live in two Habonim Dror houses at Temple University -- took it upon themselves to commemorate Rabin's life and seek meaning in his death for a new generation of American Zionist youth.
In Israel, citing lack of public interest, the annual public Rabin memorial gathering in Tel Aviv was canceled.
Several student organizers of the Nov. 6 program here said that the Habonim Dror movement has found in Rabin a leader whose liberal values they can emulate.
A number of participants voiced a similar refrain: While peace today may seem more unattainable than ever, that's no reason to give up.
For the past four years, Habonim has organized a Rabin memorial program for its members, but this year the organization wanted to do something on a larger scale. They chose to rent space at the National Liberty Museum in Old City and invite members of the public and two other youth groups, USY and BBYO, to take part. About 100 people showed up, including high school and college students, camp alumni and parents.
Participant Anya Hutter, a 17-year-old senior at Abington Friends School, said that "Habonim Dror really presents itself as a progressive Zionist youth movement, and Yitzhak Rabin is really a figure that embodies that."
"We're here to align our movement with him," she added.
Prior to the program, an exhibit outlining Rabin's life and the reaction to his death was set up for viewing in Lenfest Liberty Hall, a room that has a permanent exhibit chronicling courage in American military history.
Camp Galil received $1,000 from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia to produce the multimedia exhibit. It was designed by college students and draws heavily on Rabin's own speeches, as well as news coverage of his death and clips from his funeral. College leaders are planning to bring the show to 10 area day schools and supplementary religious schools.
During the program that followed, Hanna Vaughn, a Galil camper and 14-year-old student at the George School in Bucks County, offered her own rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine."
But is the line in the song about "and no religion, too" appropriate for a Jewish setting?
"It's more of the idea of co-existing with everyone. It's more of seeing other people for who they are and not just who they affiliate themselves with," the member of Kehilat Hanahar: The Little Shul by the River in New Hope said in an interview.
Daniel Kutner, Israel's consul general in Philadelphia, told the audience he'd been overwhelmed with shock and grief when he attended Rabin's state funeral in Jerusalem.
"He had this peculiar courage to stand up and lead, maybe one or even two steps ahead of the people, in what he thought was the right way to lead the country," said Kutner. "Regretfully, he paid the price."
He also said that Israel remains committed to the idea of a Jewish democratic state living peacefully alongside a Palestinian state.
In 1993, Reba Carmel worked in the Israeli government's official press office in Jerusalem. In the days and weeks after the killing, she was inundated with requests for information from foreign journalists. Carmel, who lives in Cheltenham Township and is now a practicing lawyer who was also ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, brought her 10-year-old daughter, Noasapir, who is active in Galil, to the program.
Carmel, a dual Israeli-American citizen, said of her daughter: "I want her to take away that there is a possibility and a hope for peace."