Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Leah Rabin’

Searching For Someone

Some people are easy to find. Others, not so much. Especially when you are trying to meet up with someone to interview for a story and/or book. That’s what I’ve discovered through the years in my attempts, and some success, in tracking down people I’ve wanted to talk to, especially those that are well known.

With the internet it has become easier to get people’s information and background, but getting their contact data, or getting through there gate keepers (managers, agents, family, lawyers, etc.), is another matter. It can take persistent emails, and calls, to get a response, let alone an interview.11898_cover_front

When I was putting together a book about loss and grief sometimes being the catalyst for people to not only change their lives, but to also create social movements and influence public opinion (Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call), it literally took years to get ahold of everyone and complete the interviews.

Obviously, people who were less known were easier to contact and meet, but women like Nancy Goodman Brinker (who started the Susan B Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, after her sister Susan died); Candace Lightner (who founded Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, after her daughter Cari was killed); and Leah Rabin (who gave speeches about reconciliation and peace around the world, after her husband, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated) were another matter.

The difficulty isn’t always due to an individual’s reluctance, or apprehension, about being interviewed, or not knowing who you are (if you are not a known author, journalist or organization), but most often it is their schedules. They have limited amounts of time, and some are booked years ahead. In those cases you have to be willing to go where they are and get whatever snippet you can.

I’ve also had unsuccessful attempts at getting interviews for different articles. and news organizations, as a freelance journalist. Even though I went to Rwanda twice, I was never able to meet with President Kagame. The closest I got was his press secretary. An interview with Christina Aguilera and Joan Baez has also alluded me, after many attempts and conversations with there managers.

If you need to interview people that are heads of government, well-known in entertainment, or in social movements, don’t give up before you try. Be persistent, yet courteous; creative, and respectful; and be able to explain briefly (in a call, email, or personal contact) why you want the interview and who you are.



Leah and Yitzhak Dying for Peace

November fourth, 1995, an international day of mourning. After completing a speech and rally for peace the Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, walks towards the car and is shot and killed by a fanatical Jew whose mind has been filled with hate and propaganda. As he takes his last breath the peace process he’s dying for goes into cardiac arrest with only a slight pulse of that vision still palpable today. The shock wave of his death was felt by none as acutely as his wife of almost fifty years, Leah Rabin. Unlike the spouses of other well-known leaders who’ve been assassinated, Mrs. Rabin did not hide away, go into seclusion or say, “It’s a private matter.” Her disbelief, raw pain and agony were witnessed and shared by millions.

In spite of the loneliness that will “never end”, Mrs. Rabin kept fighting for peace, to honor her husband and provide meaning and purpose to a world that was turned upside down. She followed her convictions and spoke out against the hate mongers and naysayers at home and abroad. (Mrs. Rabin died shortly after she and I spoke in Tel Aviv on November 12, 2000.) This is an excerpt from Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.

Mrs. Rabin: Death doesn’t change people. It’s what your disposition is to start with and how you cope with loss in the first place. Unfortunately, we live in a country where loss of life, of children, of dear ones is almost part of our daily lives because of war. It’s how you are built in the beginning that makes you able to cope or not cope in different ways. In my case . . . in our case . . . it’s different, it’s a unique phenomena. The loss of, first of all, my husband of forty-seven years, a strong and good marriage, a wonderful father and grandfather and at the same time, a great leader.

As you face this you realize from the beginning that it is not yours alone. You have to share it. The out pour of sorrow and loss and desperation of people was so huge, so overwhelming and so unbelievable. There had never been anything like this. I can only compare it with the feeling of the people in America when President Kennedy was assassinated. He was the subject of great hope for the American people. When my husband was killed he was seventy-three years old and had been in positions of leadership throughout his life; first as a soldier, then commander, Prime Minister, Ambassador, Minister of Defense and Prime Minister again.

He had accumulated a lot of experience and was a source of trust. People trusted him. “Why do you cry over Rabin?” a six-year-old child was asked. “I believed him and I trusted him,” they replied. And you hear again and again, “I haven’t cried over anybody like I did that night and the following days.” That’s what people tell you. Maybe the murder of Princess Diana was similar with the same sense of injustice and outpouring of grief, but still she wasn’t a leader in the process of conducting a daring, courageous move for peace. He had a great following . . . though not big enough. People trusted him and believed him. They trusted him too much. This was one of the problems.

A columnist after the murder said, “We trusted him and left him alone in the open, thinking he could do it himself, that we can go to Thailand and Turkey in the summer, have a good time, leave it to him, he’ll do it without us.” This attitude turned out to prove very, very wrong. He needed the people; he needed support on the street.

If I talk about it today I still don’t understand where we were. Where was I? In front of our house on Friday afternoon when he was due to come home people would stand on the street yelling for hours. Friday afternoon is usually a very quiet time because people come home from work around two or three. It’s siesta time, the shops are closed and here’s this crowd yelling for hours. When he’d get home I’d ask, “How can you bare it? Why don’t you do something? A group should come in front of them.” But it was so below his pride to deal with it. He was so convinced that his was the way and there was no other alternative to peace. He was conducting a process that he felt had to be done and would take a toll, take a price. And he would have pulled it through.

If he weren’t murdered we would have been in a totally different position today. What was building up was an inter-relation of faith, of trust, of doing it together. Trust is the main point – trust and respect. Today there is mistrust and disrespect. How do you build a peace process with people that you disrespect and you keep telling your people not to trust?

Terror does not destroy our country. There has been IRA terror for years and years and is Great Britain destroyed?! We were threatened by the overwhelming forces of our neighbors. Egypt tried to destroy us. The combined forces of Egypt and Syria and Jordan attacked us in the sixty’s war. We have proven time and again how strong we are, how we managed to be indestructible. The Palestinians with their rifles, they are our threat? They want to build up their life, they want to build up their nation, their entity, they want peace for their children, a better tomorrow for their economy. What is this that they want to threaten us?

In my grief I turned to the people, to be there for them. Instinctively, I never asked, “What am I doing?” They needed something. You have no idea how many letters and comments I later received saying, “You helped. You gave us hope. You gave us courage.” Can you imagine? I gave them hope? I gave them courage? Who was I? How did I do it? I really don’t know. I wasn’t aware. I just felt that if people were there for Yitzhak, grieving for him and being at our house, at the memorial, at the cemetery, then someone has to be there to answer their grief. They were obviously moved deeply and I was the one who could share their grief. It was like they came for him, but they also came for me.

It was a very spontaneous reaction. In a way maybe it also helped me. Here I am sharing with so many people. When my husband was around and I had something disturbing me or troubling me I’d eventually tell him. The moment I told him I said now only half of it is mine and the other half is yours. (Laughs) Similarly, I think that talking to people makes me feel we are together in this grief.

The whole world is missing Yitzhak. In a far away little village in India they’d say, “You are from Israel? I have a friend, his name is Rabin and he was killed.” This handshake he made with Arafat really captured the world’s imagination, that there was a man who was changing the history of the Middle East.

I am trying to carry on his legacy. I don’t have to initiate anything. I lost my husband and at the same time Mt. Everest fell over me. There is no end to the demand. “Come here, come there, get an honorary doctorate, get this, get that . . .” endless . . . endless. I’m constantly traveling. Next month I’m going to Germany then to the US. Sometimes I think, “What would he have said, what would he have thought about all that I’m doing? Would it please him?” I believe it would.

I keep fighting . . . fighting for the peace and fighting for most Labor candidates. I was always supported by my husband to go out and speak, though I do a lot more of it now than ever before. I also have enormous support from my children and many, many friends in Israel and abroad. I can’t complain that I feel deserted. At the same time he is not here and I’m without him. This is it. It’s hard to imagine after fifty years . . . very hard . . . enormously hard. I hear his voice and I see him walking in the house. He’s still inbred in the house. We see him in every corner and have pictures of him everywhere. My home is where I belong, where I feel secure. I’ve kept everything that belonged to him. It’s a way of clinging to what he was all about. There are his clothes, his shoes, everything. I don’t know if I’ll go on doing that forever.

We are approaching his seventy-sixth birthday so there’s going to be a lot of activity. There are always a lot of people at his memorial. There will be a big center that will carry his name as well. It’s called The Rabin Memorial Center for Research. It will not become a white elephant. It will house a museum, library, archives and research, all that was done after his murder. People are and have written poems, stories and music about and for Yitzhak. On the twenty-seventh of April there will be a requiem performed in his honor. It never ends really . . . never ends.

I have no regrets, none whatsoever. I feel blessed and privileged with a life full of purpose. Yitzhak’s plate was always full, always in front of him. He was always striving to fulfill that purpose, from early morning until late evening. When he finished his day’s work he was always wondering, “What haven’t I done today and what will I do tomorrow?” He never dwelled too much on achievement . . . on glory.

Now nothing really has the same meaning. I carry on but it’s so different . . . it’s not the same. While he was alive we shared this wonderful life . . . being there at almost every milestone in our countries history. What more could an Israeli couple wish for?

I realize I’m living with the past and not planning too much for the future, you know, just going on, just carrying on. It will never be the same. Never . . . ever. You look back and the natural tendency is to see the lights and forget the shadows. It’s not that there were no shadows, there were indeed. When you summarize this kind of life and Yitzhak’s emerging from a soldier to the leader of his country, then conducting this very unique and dangerous peace process, he was very privileged. He saw himself as privileged. Unfortunately, now it is all destroyed.

I don’t believe it is irreparable, but it’s never been worse then right now. The Palestinians have stopped believing in us anymore. At the same time there is a new reality already here. The Palestinians and the Israelis have mutual programs and continue meeting. Something has already been created on this road. We cannot turn back.

Begging in Tel Aviv

Years ago, I went to Israel to interview Leah Rabin, wife of the assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, for my book Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call. The following events took place after I’d been thoroughly searched by Ms. Rabin’s security guards, completed our conversation and had some free time before going back to the funky one-light hotel room I was staying in until the morning flight home.

In the middle of modern, bustling, downtown Tel Aviv, a man in worn clothes meanders along on the back of a long, horse-drawn cart, yelling out in broken Arabic German, “Old stuff. Anybody got old stuff?” Behind his tall dark body, with the stubble face, is a pile of books that look as if they’ve been in someone’s basement since Moses parted the Red Sea.

The gentlemen sitting next to me at the sidewalk cafe, in his meticulous three piece suit and tie, explains, “He’ll get whatever used stuff he can find and sell it at the flea market in Jaffa.” He takes a breath, lifts his nose and chin skyward and says, “Scavengers. Human scavengers.”

It seems as if every third person walking by has a cell phone stuck to their ear in some private, yet public, conversation with a friend, business partner, alien or God. Who knows what lurks on the infinite satellite waves pouring into their heads?

Four out of every five women seem to have gone to identical fashion and fitness training with shapely bodies, tight black pants, one inch high heels, dark black hair and eyes to match. The other most popular outfit is army fatigues, with coordinating boots, cap and automatic weapon.

Across the street, under the Hebrew letters for The Grand Hotel, a life-size wooden cutout of Barney, yes THAT Barney, leans happily against the wall, waving merrily with his outstretched purple clubbed hand, inviting all within sight to enter the small boutique at the corner of Ben Yehuda and Fischman.

A tall, vacant-eyed man, approaches three smartly dressed elderly women sitting on the other side of me and asks them for change. I’ve never heard someone beg in Hebrew before. One of the women scrounges in her purse as the others look away and hands him some Shekels. Without a word he walks on. The women move closer and whisper with raised eyebrows as he moves down the street, shuffling from one person to the next.

I get up quickly, follow him down a side street and hand him the equivalent of about ten US dollars and say “Shalom”. His eyes come to life and a smile adorns his face from ear to ear.

He tries to hand the money back and says, “Too much. Too much.” but I insist and tell him to keep it. As I’m trying to figure out if he’s Arab, Jewish or some other nationality, he says, “Come. Come with me.” I hesitate, then follow him around the corner.

As we turn the bend a woman in a long robe and a child meet him. He says something in Arabic and turns my way. “This is my wife, Jehan and my son Ahmad.” He rubs the boys head lovingly. “Come,” he says, motioning for me to follow. “Come to our home for dinner.”

“No,” I say, sure they have little for themselves as is. “I couldn’t impose, but thank you.”

I turned and started to walk away, but he grabbed me gently by the arm and turned me around.

“It will be our blessing to have you as our guest.” He bowed slightly. “Please.”

I could have stayed put at the sidewalk cafe, ordered a big meal and sat around to enjoy the rest of the evening, but then I would never have met Omar and his family. Meeting them was by far a vast improvement to staring at women in black pants, soldiers with guns and people talking grimly into their cell phones.

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