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This Month in Jewish History: Cheshvan

The Assassination of Prime Minister Rabin

On the twelfth of Cheshvan, 5756 (November 5, 1995), Yigal Amir assassinated Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. When leaving a pro-peace rally promoting the Oslo peace process in Tel Aviv, Amir approached Rabin’s car when he was leaving. He shot Rabin twice before being subdued. Rabin’s security rushed him to a hospital in Tel Aviv. Although Rabin made it to the hospital, the doctors were unable to revive him.

Rabin’s peace initiative, which famously included signing the Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization, had strong opposition, specifically from the religious right. The Oslo Accords created the Palestinian Authority and included several withdrawals from Palestinian territories. Palestinians were granted a form of self-governance in Gaza and the West Bank. The religious right felt that the withdrawals were unwarranted because the land was given to them from the Torah. 

This controversy led to a national movement from the right-wing to disparage Rabin for his decision to withdraw from Jewish land. Rallies organized by conservative groups showed Rabin in various inflammatory ways, including a depiction of him in a Nazi uniform. Chants of “Rabin is a murderer” and “Rabin is a traitor” rang through these rallies, as well as the cry of “Death to Rabin.” 

Rather than taking these threats seriously, Rabin ignored the protests. Not only that, but he refused requests to wear a bulletproof vest or use an armored car. In response to the anti-Rabin protests, many left-wing supporters of the Oslo Accords organized rallies in pro-peace rallies. 

His funeral drew a large attendance, including many world leaders, demonstrating his importance.

After his death, Amir was interrogated by police officers and the Israel Security Agency. He implicated his brother as an accomplice, and his family home was raided. Amir felt no guilt for his actions, claiming in his trial that “it was not a personal act,” and he just needed to remove Rabin from his position of power. Amir, a far-right Israeli Jew, believed that Rabin was a rodef (pursuer), whose actions would lead to the death and destruction of Jews. Amir therefore believed that he needed to kill Rabin.

Rabin’s funeral was held two days after his passing at Mount Herzl, where he was subsequently buried. His funeral drew a large attendance, including many world leaders, demonstrating his importance.

Yitzchak Rabin significantly influenced Israeli politics, and his policies are still impactful today. Elements of the Oslo Accord remain in effect, including the governance of the Palestinian Authority. Rabin furthered the belief that Palestinians deserve their own land. He created a lasting peace with Jordan. 

An Israeli day of remembrance was instituted two years after his assassination on Cheshvan 12, the day of his death. The Israeli flag is lowered and a memorial service is held at his grave. Rabin’s assassination left a strong impact on the Israeli population. Many describe his assassination as a sign of the divide between the religious right and secular left in Israel. Yigal Amir remains behind bars, serving a life sentence plus fourteen years.

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