Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Jews, the Prime Minister, and the Museum

A massive textile creature with irridescent stuffed tentacles hangs from the ceiling of the Tel Aviv Museum of Modern Art. The bizarre piece of art is part of the museum's diverse collection of paintings, films, and sculptures, all of which share a common theme: the search for identity. During the 20th century, the Jewish people undertook an emotional and physical journey through tragedies and milestones, from exile to Israel. The Tel Aviv Museum seeks to artistically portray the struggle of the Jews to find their identities both individually and communally in an interconnected, evolving world.

A graffitied brick wall on a busy street in Tel Aviv is covered by a glass panel, 20 years after it was last painted with expressions of grief for a fallen leader. The footsteps of assassins and bodyguards are marked on the pavement. Next to them lay slabs of rock, inscribed as a memorial to Yitzhak Rabin, an incredible man and leader who is unfortunately very dead.

Rabin was assassinated on that very piece of pavement in 1994. Why is he still relevant? How could he possibly have a connection to a modern art museum?

The answer goes back to the theme of identity. The Jewish identity is represented in the museum's art, but above all, it is epitomized in the attitude and actions in Yitzhak Rabin.

Rabin was a courageous man, tender and agreeable but unafraid of being bold. He was a top leader in the IDF, a Minister of Defense, and the fifth Prime Minister of the state of Israel. As Prime Minister, one of Rabin's major goals was establishing peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. He signed a treaty with Jordan and presented the Oslo Accords, a series of land partitions meant to create peace with Palestinians. Many of the Prime Minister's decisions were not popular with the Israeli public, especially religious right-wingers. However, Rabin's determination to bring peace to the region allowed him to persevere in his efforts, even to the point of risking his own life.

The Prime Minister only wanted peace for his people and his country, just as Jews throughout history have wanted nothing but to live in their land unpersecuted and unpressured. Rabin never gave up his authoritative power despite adversity from the public, while Jews maintained the hope of returning to Israel throughout centuries of persecution and expulsion. Above all, both Rabin and the Jews have always been willing to put their lives on the line, to fight for themselves and for their rights to make their own decisions.

When Rabin's blood spilled, his nation wept. Years later, we still weep for all that he gave us, and all that he could have given had he been allowed to live. Why? Because Yitzhak Rabin was the figure that defined our identity as a people and established our hopes for the future.

- Kim Robins

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