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Yitzhak Rabin's Assassination and the Dilemmas of Commemoration

Vered Vinitzky-Seroussi

Publication Year: 2009

Examines how Israeli society has commemorated Yitzhak Rabin. How does a society cope with the challenge of acknowledging and commemorating difficult aspects of its past? In Yitzhak Rabin’s Assassination and the Dilemmas of Commemoration, Vered Vinitzky-Seroussi develops a timely sociology of commemoration, drawing on the public memory of Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated at the end of a peace rally in Tel Aviv in 1995. She identifies and analyzes the building blocks from which commemoration is made: agency, space, time, and narrative. Acting as a guide, she leads the reader through monuments and gravestones, memorial services and political demonstrations, rituals both moving and banal, and individuals determined to remember, as well as those who wish to forget. Yitzhak Rabin’s Assassination and the Dilemmas of Commemoration examines the meanings, boundaries, opportunities, and limits of commemoration, a phenomenon not unique to Israel but shared by many nations across the globe

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Anthropology and Judaic Studies (discontinued)

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ii-vi


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pp. viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiv

My first thanks must go to the women and men who opened their homes, offices and hearts by letting me interview them. The conventions of confidentiality prevent me from naming them, but without them, this project would miss the most important voices of all: those of the agents of memory, the real people who stand behind and in front of the mnemonic scenes...

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1 Introduction

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pp. 1-20

On November 4, 1995, Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s prime minister and minister of defense, was assassinated in Tel Aviv as he and his bodyguards made their way to a bullet-proof car at the conclusion of a rally in support of the emerging peace process with the Palestinians—a policy Rabin had led since 1993. His assassin, an Orthodox Jewish law student, who belonged...

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2 Agents of Memory

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pp. 21-52

“And what now?” asked Meir Shalev, a well-known novelist, of the audience that had gathered for a memorial ceremony thirty days after the assassination— marking the end of the traditional Jewish month of mourning. “It is with the memory,” he answered with a firm voice, “the last weapon of the dead and the sword of his friends, that we will avenge. Not with a...

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3 Times to Remember

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pp. 53-73

A poll published in an Israeli newspaper a year after the assassination reported that fifty-nine percent of Jewish Israelis felt that the day of the assassination should be declared a national memorial day while thirty-nine percent did not think that it was necessary to mark the event formally.1 None, I believe, thought that within a year they would end up with two...

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4 Spaces to Remember

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pp. 75-93

Two main issues need to be taken into consideration when attempting to understand the sociological significance of spaces dedicated to commemoration in general and to the commemoration of difficult pasts in particular. First, the choice (or lack thereof) of location for commemoration is an essential component of its presentation, symbolic power and statement.1 The fact that...

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5 Escorting the Mnemonic Narrative

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pp. 95-115

Disillusioned and in a somewhat bitter voice, Rabin’s daughter, Dalia (the current chair of the Rabin Center) responded to my question as to how she would like people to remember her father, the late prime minister, and the assassination: “I would not like people to forget Rabin’s background or to associate him only within the Oslo Accords, but to make sure people...

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6 Forced to Remember

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pp. 117-144

Shortly before the second anniversary of the assassination, in July 1997, the Israeli parliament enacted the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Day Law (see chapter 3). The most important part of this legislation is the requirement that all state schools mark the event annually. While many can ignore the parliament’s mnemonic session and the ceremony at the gravesite which are...

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7 Concluding Remarks

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pp. 145-159

In this final chapter, I wish to reflect on the research presented in the book by taking three different directions. First, I will “look back” on the research, not by summarizing it, but by offering a discussion of ideas generated therein. Second, I will “look forward” by suggesting several directions for future research on collective memory and commemoration. Finally, I will “look...


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pp. 161-179


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pp. 181-192


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pp. 193-206


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pp. 207-213

E-ISBN-13: 9781438428390
E-ISBN-10: 1438428391
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438428314
Print-ISBN-10: 1438428316

Page Count: 227
Illustrations: 7 b/w photographs
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: SUNY series in Anthropology and Judaic Studies (discontinued)