Today would have been Yitzhak Rabin’s 90th birthday—as good a time as any to remember, and repent for, the time I considered assassinating him.
Two months later, I was living in Jerusalem and working for Chabad in the Old City. I often walked after work down Jaffa Road to the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall where I’d eat dinner before taking the bus home. On these walks, I would find myself thinking about what Blau had asked me to do. It gnawed at me, and as much as I wanted to push it away and forget it, I couldn’t drive it out of my mind.
After awhile, I changed the route I took. After leaving the Old City, I veered southwest and walked past the U.S. Consulate to the Kings Hotel. From there I wandered through the side streets of Rehavia until I saw it: the prime minister’s residence. I was 100 feet from Yitzhak Rabin. Over the next few weeks I made that trip several times, each time making sure to pass by it quickly, as if I didn’t know or didn’t care what was there, as if I was late for an appointment somewhere nearby. No one stopped me or searched me. No security agents seemed to be watching me. I was just another Jew walking in Jerusalem, and Rabin’s security was focused on Arabs and hired terrorists from abroad. I could get close enough. With time I devised a way to do it that I thought had a decent chance of letting me getting away with it.
But I didn’t do it. Why? Because at the very moment I was first sure my plan could work, I thought of a relative who had been murdered. I saw his face clearly in my mind. And I thought of the pain his death had caused his immediate family and so many others. And the horror of death was clearer to me than it ever had been before, the finality of it, its awful permanence. I knew then that I could never take a life unless there was no other choice, unless it was absolutely and completely clear that it was kill or be killed.
I stopped walking by Rabin’s residence. I confined my opposition to political protest. And I went on with my life. But I still carried with me the burden of being instructed to kill the prime minister of the Jewish State. And as the demonization of Rabin continued around me, I wondered if I was wrong.
Long after Rabin was murdered, after years of soul-searching and leaving Chabad and then Orthodoxy, I came to understand what happened to me—and what probably happened to Rabin’s killer. Most of the people who hear incitement and hate speech will never go beyond parroting the hateful speech of their leaders, but a small minority will. However, most of the latter will lack something—opportunity, skill, courage, faith, or the conviction that there is absolutely no other way to achieve the necessary goal—and even though they plot, in the end they will not act.
But sometimes one or two of them will come to believe they have no other choice. They will overcome their own fears and doubts because they have seen that the others were unable to overcome their own. Or they will have no doubts or fears at all because they have become such true believers that they no longer have identities separate from their leaders. They will do what no one else can do, but what they know must be done. At that moment they become fully formed creations of those leaders, products of their indoctrination set loose by men who would never send their sons or grandsons to do that evil, and who would never do it themselves.
If he had lived, Rabin would have turned 90 today. When he died, he had in his pocket lyrics to the song “Shir Lashalom” (A Song For Peace). “He whose candle was snuffed out and was buried in the dust, a bitter cry won’t wake him, won’t bring him back.” The words were soaked with blood as if to prove the point. Oslo didn’t stop with Rabin’s murder. God didn’t send a redeemer to guide us. Nothing really changed, except that the earth got a little more of the blood that it always seems to crave, fed by yet another true believer who was absolutely certain that he was doing the will of God.
The building that once housed Anshe Kanesses, one of the grandest synagogues in ‘Chicago’s Jerusalem,’ faces the wrecking ball after 99 years