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Charles Enderlin has been the Bureau Chief for France 2 since 1990. When Shattered Dreams (Other Press, 2003) was first published in France it was an immediate bestseller and led to a documentary series aired worldwide. The Lost Years also became the basis for a television documentary, “The Years of Blood,” to be aired in its American version by the Discovery Times Channel and in its international version by TV stations all over Europe. He has lived in Jerusalem since 1968.
Also by this author: The Lost Years
Susan Fairfield is an editor, translator, and poet. She is also the author of papers on literary criticism, a psychoanalyst, and co-editor of Bringing the Plague: Toward a Postmodern Psychoanalysis. She lives in the Bay Area of California.
Also by this author: Biology of Freedom, Freud, The Whispering of Ghosts, History Beyond Trauma, Dreaming by the Book, Freud the Man, Introduction to the Reading of Lacan, Why Do Women Love Men and Not Their Mothers?, Lacan, Lacanian Psychotherapy with Children, The Clinical Lacan, What Does a Woman Want?
Table of Contents
The rally is over. Under loudspeakers blaring rock music, Kings of Israel Square in Tel Aviv has turned into a huge disco floor. Thousands of young people are singing and dancing their joy. And what a surprising evening this has been: after months of lethargy, the peace camp has just demonstrated its power in the face of the right-wing nationalists and the settlers. Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister, and Shimon Peres, his minister of foreign affairs, looked deeply happy. Didn't Rabin himself try to strike up "The Song of Peace"? That would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. The ex-general, Israel's "Mr. Security," here at a peace rally!
We are the last television crew still on the scene. Jean Frydman, who organized the evening with Shlomo Lahat, the former mayor of Tel Aviv, promised me that he would bring Shimon Peres over to the gate at the top of the stairs. He isn't there. The cameraman and the soundman look at me sourly. They've been invited to a stag party by someone who works for France 2 in Jerusalem, and once again I'm making them stay until the crowd has dispersed.
I'm feeling uneasy. For months now, I've had the sense that something is going to happen. During the recent violent demonstrations against any concessions to the Palestinians, religious extremists have been telling me, "This process isn't going to make it through to completion. People are getting weapons together." In the Jewish settlement of Hebron, I'd noticed papers tacked on doors, little posters with the declaration made by Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Hacohen Kook, the spiritual leader of the Gush Emunim movement, after the 1967 conquest of the West Bank and East Jerusalem: "The Torah forbids us to give up even an inch of the land of Israel. May the hand that signs concession agreements be cut off!"
It is 10:30 P.M. on this November 4, 1995. No sign of anything unusual. Suddenly, at the top of the stairs, the police break into a run. My crew follows them. A few minutes later, the soundman calls to me, "Someone shot at Rabin; I hear he's been wounded." It happened behind the city hall. I rush over. An ambulance is parked on the right. Over to the left, dozens of plainclothes and uniformed police are subduing a young man, pinning him against a wall. Jean Frydman goes back up the stairs leading to the parking lot where the drama unfolded. He calls out to me in French, "A young Jewish terrorist fired three bullets at Rabin. He's lightly wounded."
The guests and performers who are still standing around the VIP platform are in a state of shock. Israeli radios are beginning to broadcast bulletins about what, by agreement, is still being called a rumor of an assassination attempt against the prime minister. I call Paris. The news is not on the wire, and I transmit it to the Jerusalem bureau of Agence France-Presse, the news service. Then I get a message on my beeper: "Avigdor Eskin informs you: the pulsa denura prayer has been granted." I had filmed this oddball, Eskin, a few weeks earlier in Jerusalem, in front of the prime minister's residence. Along with two rabbis, he had been reciting that cabalistic incantation, a prayer for someone's death. The death in question was Yitzhak Rabin's.
The bulletins are getting more precise by the minute. Rabin is in Ichilov Hospital, apparently gravely wounded. The prognosis is dire. Then, on the way back to Jerusalem, I get a call from my oldest daughter. One of her friends, a nurse at Ichilov, has just told her about the death of the prime minister.
A few minutes later, the radio broadcasts live the statement of Eytan Haber, Rabin's top aide. It's official. Yitzhak Rabin is dead. For the first time in the history of the State of Israel, a head of government has been assassinated because he was conducting peace talks. What comes to my mind are the Israeli-Egyptian peace negotiations of 1956, at which David Ben-Gurion had told the American envoy Robert Anderson, "We Israeli leaders aren't in danger of being murdered if we make peace with Nasser. Didn't Nasser say that he's the one who fears for his life?" In the space of a few hours, Israel has undergone a radical change.
And yet, apart from the climate of violence maintained by the Israeli right, everything was going relatively well. The interim accord with the PLO had been signed six weeks earlier at the White House. There had been no attack for several months, and Rabin, the military man, truly seemed to have changed. He was beginning to express a certain sympathy for the Palestinians. During the July 14 reception at the French embassy in Tel Aviv, he had "interviewed" the Gaza correspondent for France 2 at length. The prime minister of the State of Israel had asked Talal Abu Rahmeh if the atmosphere in Gaza was improving, if girls' skirts were getting a little shorter, that sort of thing.
It's hard for me to grasp what has happened. I had a meeting scheduled with Eytan Haber for the following day, Sunday, November 5, to set up an interview with Rabin for my next book.
WHO KILLED RABIN?
The country is in a state of shock. Hundreds of young people have gathered spontaneously at the scene of the crime. In Jerusalem, about twenty people, in tears, are humming songs and praying in front of the late prime minister's residence. A period of national mourning has begun. In Tel Aviv, the government convenes at the defense ministry. Shimon Peres is named interim prime minister. In the limousine taking him back to Jerusalem along with Uri Savir, chief director of the foreign ministry, and two bodyguards armed with machine guns, he remains deep in thought, saying only, "I feel alone...."
And alone he is. He will be so for a long time.
The assassin's name is Yigal Amir. He is 27 years old, lives north of Tel Aviv, and is a student at Bar Ilan, the religious university. He tells investigators that he coldly decided to kill Rabin in order to prevent new concessions from being made to the Palestinians. Be that as it may, the heads of the security services must very quickly determine whether this man was acting on his own or was part of a plot threatening the stability of the country. The first searches are underway. Shin Bet, the intelligence service, establishes an internal commission of inquiry. Rafi Malka, Shin Bet's former chief of operations, has joined the investigation.
Shimon Peres had set up this commission, but he did not authorize it to investigate the assassin's motives or the climate of incitement to hatred in which the murder took place. Under these constraints, the conclusions issued two days later are purely operational: Shin Bet's protective service, which was supposed to ensure the safety of the prime minister, had been inadequately deployed, failing to cover Yitzhak Rabin's entire route and, in particular, leaving him without cover between the stairs and his car. Three high officials of the service are dismissed.
Reactions from abroad are beginning to reach Israel. In Washington, President Clinton issues an announcement: "A senseless act of violence has deprived the United States and the world of a statesman, a brave fighter for peace." He proclaims a gesture of national mourning: the American flag will be lowered to half-mast in the United States, on all its military bases, on all its ships, and in American embassies and consulates.
In Israel, prior to the funeral, which will be held twenty-four hours later on November 7, the bier has been set up on the esplanade of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Hundreds of thousands of weeping mourners file past the coffin.
Kings of Israel Square in Tel Aviv has been transformed into a giant commemoration. Walls, sidewalks, and telephone booths are covered with inscriptions, poems, and letters to Rabin. Adults and teenagers, the latter in great number, gather in front of the memorial candles.
The Rabin generation has just been born. In the years to come, it will lose strength.
Renaming to her home in Ramat Aviv late in the evening, the widowed Leah Rabin finds several hundred Israelis of all ages who have come to express their support and offer her their condolences. Thousands of lighted candles cover the sidewalk. She addresses the crowd: "I'm sorry you weren't there when, every Friday, demonstrators from the right used to come and insult us.... But you are here this evening, and, for me and my children, that is encouraging. You're showing respect for my husband's memory in a very beautiful way. Thank you. I am truly grateful, and, in his name, I offer you my affection."
The security of all Israeli political figures is being beefed up. Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the opposition, no longer goes anywhere without bodyguards at-reed with M16 rifles, their fingers on the trigger.
The ministry of foreign affairs has been devoting all its efforts to the funeral: 4,000 dignitaries from all over the world are due to arrive tomorrow. Three special planes will bring the American delegation, led by Bill Clinton. King Hussein of Jordan has said he would come, as has the Egyptian head of state Hosni Mubarak, making his first visit to Israel. French president Jacques Chirac and Charles, Prince of Wales, are also expected. In the course of the night all retired ambassadors and diplomats, and all the reservists of the security services, return to their former posts.
Israel has never known anything like this. At Ben-Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, airplanes from eighty-six different countries are landing one after another. There is not enough room on the tarmac, and some have to take off again and land in other regional airports. The diplomats in charge of protocol learn of the arrival of some of the delegations from the control tower as flight plans come in.
The funeral will take place on Mount Herzl, where Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, is buried. Everything is symbolic: even part of the Arab world will be there.
Hussein of Jordan can hardly hold back his tears. He has not been back to Jerusalem since the city was conquered in 1967 by Yitzhak Rabin, then commander in chief of the army. And for the first time since the visit of Anwar el-Sadat in 1977, Arab leaders have come to Jerusalem. In addition to Hosni Mubarak, Abdel Latif Filali, the Moroccan head of government, is here, as are several ministers from the Persian Gulf states, including Oman and Qatar.
In front of the coffin, Shimon Peres speaks to the late prime minister:
Last Saturday, the two of us stood side by side, holding hands. Together, we sang "The Song of Peace," and I could feel how thrilled you were. You told me you'd been informed of the risk of an attempted assassination during this impressive rally. We didn't know who the assassin would be, or about the enormity of the attack. But we knew that we should not fear death, that we could not hold back in the quest for peace.... I didn't know that these would be the final hours we would be working together in a mutual endeavor that knew no limits.
I sensed that a certain generosity of spirit was surrounding you, that suddenly you could breathe freely at the sight of this sea of friends who had come to support the path you had taken and to applaud you.... You had promised to change the priorities [in Israel]. And in fact [everything has changed]. New roads have been paved; unemployment has decreased and exports increased, as have investments; [the budget for] education has doubled; and science has progressed.
But above all, and perhaps here is where we can see the origin of all this, the powerful winds of peace have begun to blow.
Two agreements with our neighbors the Palestinians will enable them to hold democratic elections and will free us from the need to dominate another people, just as you promised.
A cordial peace with Jordan could transform the desert separating us into a meadow of hope for the two nations. The Middle East has reawakened, and a coalition for peace is taking shape: a regional coalition maintained by a worldwide coalition overseen by the leaders of America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and our region, standing before your newly dug grave.
His voice breaking with emotion, Rabin's faithful aide Eytan Haber then addresses the man for whom he had written hundreds of speeches:
Yitzhak, this is the last speech. There will be no others. For a generation, for more than thirty-five years, you have been my guide, my leader, and like a second father to me. Five minutes before the assassin fired his gun, you sang "The Song of Peace" from a song sheet that had been handed to you so that, as you always said, you wouldn't mumble the words. Yitzhak, you know you had a thousand good qualities, a thousand advantages, you were wonderful, but singing was not your strong point. You faked the words just a little bit during the song, and then you folded the page into four parts, as usual, and put it into your jacket pocket.
In the hospital, after the doctors and nurses wept, they handed me the paper they found in your jacket. It was still folded into four parts. Now I would like to read some of the words from the paper, but it is difficult for me. Your blood, your blood, Yitzhak, covers some of the words. Your blood on the page of "The Song of Peace." This is the blood that flowed from your body in the final moments of your life and onto the paper among the lines and the words. From this red page, from the blood that screams out to you, I would now like to read these words, which seem as though they were written only yesterday. After you sang there, and after you and peace were shot. This is the page:
Let the sun rise and give the morning light.
The purest prayer will not bring back to us
The man whose candle was snuffed out, who was buried
in the dust.
A cry of pain won't wake him, won't bring him back.
No one will bring us back from the dead dark pit
Here.-Neither the victory cheer nor songs of praise
So: sing only a song for peace, do not whisper a prayer.
Better sing a song for peace, with a great shout.
Yitzhak, we already miss you.
Next King Hussein recalls the day when his grandfather was assassinated in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a few miles from the place where he is standing. "When my time comes," he says, "I hope it will be like my grandfather's and like Yitzhak Rabin's." (His wish will not be fulfilled. He will die of cancer.)
Excerpted from SHATTERED DREAMS by CHARLES ENDERLIN Copyright © 2002 by Libraire Arthème Fayard
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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