This is the text of a speech that I gave 1 year ago after I was asked, by the director of Hashomer Hatzair North America, to speak at the memorial ceremony for Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a right wing Jewish extremist in 1995. The event was held at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Manhattan.
This speech was meant to communicate the experience of a teenager who suddenly awoke to the world beyond his neighborhood via a murder on the other side of the world. It was meant to communicate the severe frustration in knowing that, more than a decade and a half later, things are spiraling downward. This speech is supposed to be some kind of call to action for a Jewish community which could be a deafening voice for peace, justice, and equality in Israel and Palestine.
I was 14 when Rabin was murdered. I had been in the Hashomer Hatzair movement for a few years, but to me it was really just a place to have fun. Changing the world was not really on my radar when I thought about the movement. When I heard about the assassination on the news I was getting ready to go out with friends. The next day I found myself at a vigil with my family, friends, and the entire shocked Toronto Jewish community. Watching the flames and the candles melting on the sidewalk, I have vivid memories of the feeling that I felt that night. It was a feeling that I was needed. Terrible things can happen to people who try to make the world a better place, and it means that more people need to try to make the world a better place, because the alternative is unthinkable.
I understood that I needed to be involved; that I was needed in making the world better somehow. I understood at that moment that I was part of a people, a movement, and a mission.
Rabin was not a pacifist. He was not even particularly progressive on a number of issues. He was a soldier, diplomat and politician. He was a part of the system. But he was a visionary as well. He understood that without bold motion forward peace and justice would not come on its own. He understood that someone had to take steps, or no one would. He knew that it had to be him at that moment, and that is the incredible inspiration that he left us with after he was shot down.
As Socialist-Zionists it is vital for us to involve ourselves in bettering the collective Jewish project in our people's birthplace. It is essential for us to struggle for a Jewish self-determination that is socialist in nature and that is united with Palestinian self-determination; because it is. We aim to work with our partners in Israel and Palestine to create a free society for all peoples who share that place.
I am moving to Israel in two weeks with my partner, Karen. With this move, we aim to further develop the North American movement's relationship with our partners in Israel and around the world. We aim to deepen our knowledge of Hebrew, because it is the language of our people and our culture. Most importantly, we aim to join the struggle for a better reality in Israel and beyond. The reality that we envision holds at its core justice for all peoples, peace, truly democratic structures, and a culture of harmonious mutual responsibility.
This year the world has begun to rise up against authoritarian power, economic inequity, and social injustice. This movement is global, and it is becoming more evident every day that we are collectively moving toward large-scale societal shifts. We are leaving North America as partners in building this growing movement, which seeks true democracy and economic and social justice. We are moving to Israel to struggle for the very same ingredients of a better world. We are moving there at a time when authoritarianism is on the rise and restrictions on speech, movement, and information are only the beginning of what will only become worse if we don’t stand up together. Whether we are here or there, it is our responsibility to stand together.
We are entering an era of profound social transformation. Much of my involvement in this is inspired by that sense that I am, we are, needed to help make a better world.
Chazak V'Ematz (Strength and Courage).