Yael Tamir was two hundred yards away from Yitzhak Rabin when he was shot. A veteran of the Israeli Peace Now movement, she describes an event charged with irony and emotionby Yael Tamir / December 20, 1995 / Leave a comment
Peace demonstrations are tedious events. The speakers say trivial things, the audience applauds at the right moments, somebody sings a song, another releases some white doves, a third reads a poem. Only platitudes and slogans are spoken. The thrill, if there is one, comes from seeing people you love and from confronting those who regard you as an object of hatred. But this particular demonstration seemed relaxed, well-organised and over-protected. The numerous policemen surrounding us were there not to oppose us, but to keep order.
We, two veterans of the peace movement with two teenage children, spent most of the demonstration strolling around, hugging old friends, expressing amazement that our children, born together with the Israeli peace movement, were now teenagers.
We missed most of the speeches. We had been busy telling these children how extraordinary it was for us to find ourselves supporting the government-we who had always been against the establishment. We had not changed our views, the government had. On the platform the Israeli political and cultural establishment was about to vow its commitment to peace, compromise with the Palestinians and non-violence.
But when Miri Aloni began to sing the “Song of Peace” we stopped to listen. She had sung this song at all our peace demonstrations for 17 years. But this time she had Yitzhak Rabin to her left and Shimon Peres to her right. Standing on the stage, dignified and smiling, holding sheets of paper on which the words of the song were written, was the strangest coalition which ever sang this song.
Even our children, who had demonstrated along with us since the day they could walk-or perhaps even before that-could not recall the history of this song. The “Song of Peace” was written after the 1967 war, at the height of Israeli celebrations of the sweeping victory, the “liberation”-to use the official terminology-of the West Bank and Jerusalem. The song was then seen as subversive. Written from the point of view of the fallen, it isn’t a song of heroism, it doesn’t glorify death or promise resurrection. It describes death as a bitter, unrewarding state which neither the purest of prayers nor the exhilaration of songs of victory can ever reverse.
The message of the fallen is disquieting: “Don’t look back, let us rest in peace. Look forward, not through gun sights, but with hope. Don’t say the day of peace will…