This Ian person is a friend of a friend of a friend. I don't know his last name.
I have committed a sin over the last few weeks. I gave up hope. Last night I changed my mind, and began to atone.
The last few weeks have filled me with much sadness. As a member of Israel's left-wing community, I could only look on with despair, as the work of the last few years seemed to fall apart in a matter of minutes. I don't point fingers, and I don't believe either side is just in its actions. I do believe that we've reached a point of no return, a point of distrust, of hatred, of despair. And I have felt that in such a situation, regardless of personal belief, there can be no peace, there can be no compromise. All there can be is fear and rhetoric.
Last night I changed my mind. In what I had expected to be a hard evening, I went to the spot where, five years ago last night, Yitzhak Rabin was shot. The city had a planned a huge memorial, and with over 100,000 people in attendance, I had no idea what to expect. After going through a security search (they had the place entirely closed off, accessible only through police gates), I entered the square, and weaved my way through a crowd of people. Mostly non-religious and mostly very young, I saw a whole assembly of people who still believe that peace can happen, who were still filled with hope, and who wanted to have their voices heard above the bullets. Signs like, "there's no alternative to Oslo," and "we fight violence, and support peace," were seen everywhere, as were stickers with phrases like, "od lo avda tikvatanu" (We have not yet lost our hope - from Hatikva).
The first hour of the memorial left me disappointed (from this point on are strictly my opinions, not necessarily representing the general public). Here we were, sitting in the place he was shot, five years later, during one of the toughest hours in Israel's history, and politicians were making speeches about what a good man he was. About how there can be no left or right on a night like this, about how terrible we all feel. In between speeches were sad songs. All I could think was, "why isn't anyone addressing the issue?! We're all ignoring the reality - that this man's work is going down the trash, that the situation today is not how it would be if he were here, that in some naive way everyone seemed ok to ignore the present and listen to or give watered down speeches meant to offend no one." And as I looked around, that's what seemed to be the case. There was no somber mood in the crowd, there were few tears. The place had turned into a yearly happening, a place to meet, to give out stickers. There was so much noise towards the back of the crowd that we had to move up in order to hear well.
Even Barak, when he spoke, left me wanting more. You see, in my opinion, Rabin began this peace process with the Palestinians as if they were partners. They were building trust between the two sides, and each understood that in order to progress, we had to do it together. I'm not ignoring the reality of the time, of course, but the general idea overall was to work together. Once Netanyahu came into power, that all changed. It became a sense of us against them, a conflict that would one day explode with a peace deal. That's not the way to get peace, but, unfortunately, that's the situation. Barak's speech reflected that: "We've done all we can for peace. I stand here tonight to call on Yassir Arafat to do what he can to make peace, to understand that it is no longer on us, but on him, to make this peace work." It's true, but it's too bad. It didn't need to be that way.
Then came Mr. Shimon Peres, a man who's worked harder for the good will of this country than most, and who's been given the shaft for it his whole life. He didn't water down his words, and he didn't try to appease anyone. His message was clear - "Oslo is not dead." But even more than that, he said exactly what I had been waiting to hear. With a loud, booming, and, quite frankly, pissed, voice, he described the work of Rabin. He spoke passionately about the life he remembered before Oslo began, about the growth he felt between the two sides in the last seven years. He spoke about the Palestinian nation, about the division of the map, about the kind of future that we can have if we can only make peace. He spoke about our Arab neighbors, not our Arab enemies. He spoke about the need to educate our children, to help them understand what's going on and to raise them to respect those living next door, not to hate them. He spoke directly to the young people in the audience, telling them that their lives can be lived out in peace, promising them that it will happen. The gaps of today, he said, are no where near the gaps of ten years ago. Those were the hardest to overcome, and they have been. Today's problems can be solved; today's gaps can be bridged.
The mood at the crowd had changed. While Peres spoke, there was silence. His words filled me (at least) with a feeling that hope is not lost, that this thing can be pulled out of the gutter it's in and that perhaps, soon, we can flourish here together. I'm not so naive to think that all it takes is hope, or that the Arabs aren't pissed, or ruthless, or untrustworthy, or whatever. I know the reality here. It's precisely because of that that I'd lost hope. And when hope is gone, there's nothing at all to look forward to. I don't know how it will all work out, and I can't even imagine a solution that will result in a peace that will appease the masses. We are free to have our beliefs, our passions, and our points of view. But what I learned last night is that regardless of everything, hope must remain.
So I left with a vision. As the rally ended, songs of peace began to blare through the speakers. First Shir HaShalom, then John Lenon's Imagine, then some others. And I looked around, seeing people starting to dance. On such a sad night, during such hard times, people were dancing, laughing, hugging. A drum circle in the center of the square drew hundreds around it. And for a brief moment, it seemed like all will be fine. And thus my vision: the legacy of Rabin, the peace process, Oslo, and perhaps a future Middle East of neighbors and not enemies, is still within reach. He began it...and wouldn't it be incredible if one day November 4th stopped being a memorial day, and became a day of celebration. A day of dancing and singing...a day to remember the man who started it all. A day to celebrate peace.