With the help of a friend – Israeli musician and educator Udi Krauss – we reflect on the impact of Rabin’s life and legacy and the sounds of a nation.
On November 4, 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (z”l) was assassinated, and in that moment, Israeli society was forever changed. As music is a window into society, the way in which music swirled around the life and untimely death of Yitzhak Rabin – one of Israel’s first sabra (צבר, native born) leaders – provides interesting portals into Israeli society.
Rabin's Song for Peace
“As a musician, you want to express feelings, you want to change the world."
The song Shir LaShalom – words by Yaakov Rotblit and composed by Yair Rosenblum, written in 1969 – became the song of a generation. The song urges to “bring the day” that peace will come. Some feel that the song echoes Rabin’s famous speech at Hebrew University on June 28, 1967, in which he praises the sacrifice of the soldiers of the IDF and starkly reminds the country of the harsh casualty of war.
Originally performed by the Infantry Ensemble (Lehakat Hanachal) of the Israeli Defense Forces, its reception among the military leadership – of which Rabin had been a part – was controversial. Army officials such as Rehavam Ze’vi ("Gandhi") and Ariel Sharon forbade it from being performed in their areas of command, and as such, the song became representative of left-wing peace-oriented politics. Ultimately, it became an official campaign song for the left-wing Meretz party in the 1996 election.
It was with that association that Rabin – former Chief of Staff of the IDF and Commander during the Six Day War – took out a lyric sheet and the words of Shir LaSalom, alongside Shimon Peres, rock star Aviv Gefen, and tens of thousands attending a the peace rally in "Kings of Israel Square" (now "Rabin Square") in Tel Aviv.
Shir LaShalom (שיר לשלום, Song for Peace)
Rabin: A Man, A Leader, A "Rock 'N' Roller"
Aviv Geffen, son of Israeli poet and songwriter Yonatan Geffen, was just emerging on the music scene when Rabin became Prime Minister for the second time in 1992. By the time of the peace rally on that fateful night in 1995, Geffen was the rock star and symbol of young Israelis, and he and Rabin were close acquaintances.
Prior to the assassination, Aviv Geffen had written Livkot Lechah (To Cry For You) in memory of a friend who had been killed in a car crash. After the tragedy of Rabin's assassination, this song – performed at the memorial in Rabin Square just one week after Rabin's death – took on a new national meaning.
Livkot Lechah (לבכות לך, To Cry For You)
Livkot Lechah became a song of the “candle generation,” the mostly young mourners who came to light a memorial candle for their fallen leader. The square was covered with candles and melted wax. This image was captured by Israeli artist Hanoch Piven in the portrait that he created of Rabin below.
(Activity: The Piven Workshop: What Makes A Great Leader?)
Hadag Nachash: Remembering Rabin Through Song
Israeli hip hop ensemble Hadag Nachash released a song on the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin titled, "What Would Have Been If?"
But know that there are moments
In which I see high above the Cypress trees
And above the heads of my exhausted People
A floating tear and inside three words:
“What would have been if?”
- What songs in your memory transport you to a specific time and place?
- What songs or lyrics connect you with Israel?