We are not prepared to succeed in the war on terror, only to fail in the struggle for our character. We are in the midst of an ongoing war against external enemies, but we must cease to view each other as enemies from within.

 President Rivlin: Remembering the murder, fighting for democracy

 

Copyright: GPO/Mark Neiman

Friends, “Violence is undermining the very foundations of Israeli democracy. It must be condemned, denounced, and isolated. This is not the way of the State of Israel.” So said Yitzhak Rabin, 19 years ago, from the very stage upon which I now stand. These words were to be his last.
 
Nineteen years, nearly two decades have now passed. But the violence has not disappeared. It is still amongst us. It unabashedly rears its head and makes its mark. Not just in our schools, on social media, in demonstrations, or on the soccer field – but within us. In the language and in the words we choose, in the way in which we argue and debate, in our very inability to listen and understand.
 
I am not ignoring the fact that we live in a violent and difficult region. Brutal murders and cruelty surround us on all sides. Difficult and disturbing events occur. We are losing our children, our brothers, our friends. The environment in which we live is far from being just. Far from being fair, it is often cruel and without compassion. Yet despite it all, and perhaps specifically because of this, we have come here this evening to say; violence is not the way of the State of Israel.
 
It is not what we are.
 
We are not prepared to succeed in the war on terror, only to fail in the struggle for our character. We are in the midst of an ongoing war against external enemies, but we must cease to view each other as enemies from within.
 
We remained silent in those difficult days before the murder of Rabin. We have sinned, Yitzhak. I am saying that now, today, we cannot remain silent. We must understand that if we remain silent, we have given up on the dream, we have forgotten why, and for what cause we came to our homeland.
 
You are standing here today, the youth, young men and women, members and leaders of all the youth movements; religious and secular, Left and Right, Jews and Arabs – together, the tribes of Israel, from the four corners of the land. All that is good within this country. Its beautiful face. You are the generation that did not know Yitzhak. You are the generation that does not recall how, in those terrible days before the murder, there was so little that bound us together, and yet so much that drove us apart. You stand here, together, brave and outspoken, in the name of remembrance, in the name of democracy.
 
But democracy, as we learned at the cost of the Prime Minister’s life, cannot stand alone without foundations. Rabin was not murdered because of a momentary weakness in Israel’s democracy, but, crucially, against a background of a social reality ruled by mutual hostility and insensitivity. And when we remember the atmosphere of those days, both before and after the murder, it is impossible to ignore that it was not the rules of the game which divided us, but that there was a gaping void between us. We had no common language, no shared vision. We were unable to state clearly the values which we shared. And democracy, above all else, rests upon values, upon listening, upon cooperation, upon vision.
 
My young friends, like Yitzhak, I have also come here today, not only to praise you, but also to set before you a task.
 
Leave behind the words which stained the past. Leave behind the words which continue to pollute the present. And find the words, with which we will be able to build the future – our future, your future.
 
Allow the security forces to safeguard our borders – while you safeguard our home. You are the bridges which stretch across that abyss which existed between us then; Right and Left, religious and secular, Jews and Arabs. You today are succeeding where we failed. Despite the difficult and penetrating differences between us, we share common values. We have something to believe in together, for which we hope together.

Let us agree to disagree. Let us listen to each other, even if we will not be convinced by each other. We are here, to learn to ask ourselves difficult questions about our shared vision, and to struggle bravely to find answers. Through the most difficult of times, and against all the odds, this is the society which we have dreamed to build. A society in which all its components, take responsibility for its building, and take an equal part in shaping its character and future.
 
Dear friends. Challenge that which stands between us, brazenly and courageously. It has fallen to us to forge a new path. We have been given the challenge to make change. I am here with you; I am here at your service. I am a soldier in the army of hope, of faith, of your vision.