"Yes to Peace, No to Violence"

Visitors enter the “Kings of Israel" Square in support or opposition to the peace rally of November 4, 1995, the night Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.  The short film concludes with the wail of sirens and images of the crowd, indicating the impending disaster. From the square, visitors begin along the downward spiral corridor with the biography of Yitzhak Rabin.

In each exhibit, there are two sub-narratives. The first presents the conflicts and dilemmas that divided Israeli society from its inception. These dilemmas are displayed on red steel triangles extending from the walls of each exhibit. The second are timelines of significant events in world history. These timelines give context to the events taking place locally and are found on the floor of the exhibits. 

The Road to Independence: 1920 - 1948

Set during a time of development for the modern state, the exhibit presents Tel Aviv of the 1920’s, the “White City,” and the chalutzim of the Third Aliyah (Rabin was born in 1922).  Various elements display the beaches, the buildings and the cultural development of the city of Tel Aviv.

Images of early settlements depict the more rural parts of the country, with patriotic songs exalting the virtues of settling the land playing in the background.  Detailed is the Yishuv’s involvement in World War II:  the Palmach, the clandestine immigration, the struggle with the British governance in Palestine, the Jewish Brigade and the participation in the war effort abroad.  

As World War II comes to an end, the scene is set for the War of Independence, where Rabin’s role was defending the road to the city.  Here visitors find the vote of November 29, 1947 by the United Nations General Assembly and David Ben Gurion’s Declaration of Independence amidst the battles for control of territory.

The Building of the State: 1949 - 1967

Visitors step into transit camps that served as homes to hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.  The images give a sense for the immigration experience and dire dwelling circumstances of the 1950’s.  The massive resettlement of immigrants into agricultural developments and towns present both the achievements and shortcomings of the solutions, giving voice to the sadness, displacement and difficulties experienced by new members of Israeli society.  Typical slogans and quotations of Ben Gurion and other statesmen provide deeper meaning to the idealism versus reality of the times. 

Also illustrated is the growth of industry and infrastructure:  stories of road construction, water projects and rural electrification, including the construction of the National Water Carrier.  Beyond the construction, are images of Israelis from diverse cultures and backgrounds, illustrating the contrast between the more established settlers and relative newcomers.  The exhibit’s sound is comprised of songs, plays, music and poetry of the era, representative of the diverse cultures within Israeli society.

The exhibit culminates in the events leading up to the 1967 war.  On one side, images and text reflect the anxiety experienced by the military build-up of Jordan, Syria and Egypt as they prepared for confrontation with Israel.  On the other side, Israel prepares to defend herself, amassing arms and troops. The final panel describes Rabin’s role as Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces on the eve of the Six-Day War. 

The Six-Day War

A turning point in Israel’s history, the exhibit is an enclosed media space screening 7-minutes of actual footage taken from the Six-Day War.  The film shows the impact of the Israeli air strikes and emotional response to the unification of Jerusalem. On each side of the film are wall-to-wall photographs representing a war fought simultaneously on three fronts.  

There was a heavy price paid for the Israeli victory: many Israelis and Arabs died in the fighting; thousands of Arabs fled their homes, exacerbating a refugee problem that began with the War of Independence; and the occupation of extensive territory belonging to Egypt, Jordan and Syria set the stage for military, political and social struggles that would impact the state of Israel for decades to come.  

Upon exiting, visitors find Yitzhak Rabin’s famous words upon receiving an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus.

Victory and Attrition: 1967 - 1977

Following the Six-Day War, Rabin served as Israel’s Ambassador to the United States.  Dubbed the “Undiplomatic Diplomat,” his straightforward style distinguished him as the first Sabra to hold this position.  One of the major characteristics of his tenure as Ambassador was forging stronger relations with the United States.
The exhibit lays out the evolution of Israeli mentality following the Six Day War - the transition from considering the occupied territories as a bargaining chip in the quest for peace to the gradual acceptance by many Israelis that the land was part of a greater Israel.  During this ten-year period, there are significant hints of disenchantment with the traditional leadership and becoming more apparent following the Yom Kippur War: layered images depicting the growth and development of Jerusalem under Mayor Teddy Kollek’s leadership contrasted by the warfare between Israel and Egypt, referred to as the ‘War of Attrition.’   

The exhibit chronicles the shock of the Yom Kippur War and its aftermath, including still images and a media presentation of the battles that were incredibly costly in both human life and to the collective psychology of the nation.  

Visitors emerge to find the country in a period of discontent, transitioning from the ouster of the Golda Meir government to the first term of Yitzhak Rabin as Prime Minister.  Terrorism continues; the heroine tale of Operation Entebbe; the story of Kaddum, an early “ideological settlement” on the West Bank and its confrontation with the Israel Defense Forces; and finally, Rabin’s resignation and the end of his first term as Prime Minister.

Peace and War: 1977 - 1987

The exhibit presents Rabin during one of the most difficult times in his professional life:  his “exile” from government and transition to the political opposition.  The exhibit explores the drastic changes in government in 1977 and its effect on the Israeli population beginning with the dramatic televised announcement of Menachem Begin’s election and the chanting of his supporters. A representation of how this election redrew Israel’s political map is presented via an image of the Knesset with photos showing earlier party representation dissolving and evolving into more recent affiliations. 

Chronicled in the exhibit is Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem followed by superimposed images of negotiators at Camp David and the outcome of the agreements:  peace with the largest Arab nation and Israel ceding the Sinai Peninsula.  No picture more clearly communicates the divided feelings over this decision than those depicting the evacuation of the Israeli settlement of Yamit.  As Yamit is abandoned, more settlements crop up in other parts of the occupied territories.  A large cut-metal map illustrates the “strategic,” “ideological” and “economic” settlements of the era.  

Just as Israel was heavily divided over the issue of settlements in the territories, ethnic divisions increasingly emerge.  Feelings of anger and defiance surface in the 1981 election, emphasizing societal divisions with a “second,” less equal Israel evolving. 

The exhibit concludes with the war in Lebanon.  A portrait of the northern border town of Kiryat Shmonah helps put this military offensive into context, demonstrating the “quagmire” and range of Israeli response to the crisis.  The election of a national unity government with Likud and Labor parties ruling together is one outcome of the war.  Upon exiting, visitors see Rabin in his new post as Minister of Defense, a role that will place him center stage for the upcoming explosion of protests in the West Bank and Gaza.

Confrontation and Initial Reconciliation: 1987- 1992

The first Intifada between 1987 and 1993 dominates this period. Visitors experience the atmosphere, passing through a barricade of a Palestinian town.  Screens depict events of the time.  The narrative tracks the  changes in the Israeli consciousness from the na?ve belief that the disturbances would soon pass, to attempts to overpower and crush the uprising, to the slow realization that armed forces would not succeed against this popular nationalist movement. 

 The complex narrative is told through diverse social views: soldiers distressed at fighting a civilian population and in some cases, refuse to participate; a young generation of protesters against Israeli control and oppression is coming of age; the Palestinian mainstream is making economic sacrifices to support their action; Israeli businesses, dependent on a Palestinian labor force, feel the impact of its absence; Israeli citizens respond with a broad range of opinions; and international voices rise, including protests from human rights organizations.  

 Against this backdrop, visitors come upon the first Gulf War, the introduction of a new threat to Israel and its impact on Israeli civilians.  It is followed by pictures of the mass immigration from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union.  From the joy of arrival to the reality of absorption hardships, the images of the many new faces highlight the growing ethnic and racial diversity evolving in the modern Israeli state.

 The journey that began with the first Intifada progresses to the Madrid conference table, an actual table with those who attended the peace conference simulating the points of view and conflicting goals.  A series of monitors allow visitors to assume the identity of the various representatives. 

 This scenario leads to the Israeli elections of 1992, with the campaign slogan “Israel is waiting for Rabin.” This election campaign was conducted in the shadow of right-wing demonstrations against the peace talks and the exchange of land for peace.  The exhibit concludes with the result of the election and Rabin’s famous declaration:  “I will lead.”   

Soldier in the Army of Peace: 1992 - 1995

The museum tells two parallel stories: the history of the State of Israel within the exhibit rooms and the biography of Yitzhak Rabin along the inner corridor.  At this point, the two stories merge.

The exhibit tells of the exciting momentum during Rabin’s second term as Prime Minister: his Administration’s shift in national priorities of building up the education system, developing industry, and investing in infrastructure while simultaneously fostering improved international relations. Together with Shimon Peres, Rabin engages cautiously in the Oslo peace process, gradually altering his views toward dealing with the PLO.  

The exhibit contains the actual room where Rabin did much of his work and thinking, his study which has been transported in its entirety from the home to the museum. 

The inner portion of the corridor displays the accomplishments of the period: the signing the Declaration of Principles on the White House lawn, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, and signing the peace treaty with King Hussein of Jordan.  The outer portion of the corridor gives context to these accomplishments:  the building of Israel opposite the range of responses to the peace process  from supporters to those violently opposed; opposite the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, the implementation of “Gaza and Jericho First”; opposite the agreements with Jordan, the new relationships with countries of the Middle East and Africa acknowledged together with the horrific terrorist activities, including the bombings of Israeli buses.  

Finally, images showing scathing characterizations and demonstrations against Rabin:  “…the writing on the wall.”  The extreme polarization of political opinion developing sits opposite a large image of the peace rally of November 4, 1995. 

The Announcement of the Assassination

A darkened and quiet space is the setting for the last moments of Yitzhak Rabin’s story.  Monitors running short videos consequentially show the aftermath of the assassination, beginning with Eitan Haber’s dramatic announcement of Rabin’s death at the hand of an assassin followed by the public’s reaction to the announcement, the procession of dignitaries at Rabin’s funeral and excerpts from the moving words of his granddaughter, Noa Ben Artzi. The space gives pause to reflect on the tremendous loss to Israel and the collective mourning that brought the entire world together.  Lights from the rally in the first exhibit shine through a transparent portion in the ceiling. 

The Day After

Visitors exit the museum through an area representing the hope for the continuation of Yitzhak Rabin’s path despite the loss of the man.  A large wall of graffiti (the original photograph) covered by transparent panels allows visitors to leave their own graffiti using markers provided.  To the left of the graffiti wall is a quote from
Yehuda Amichai’s song, “The Place Where We Are Right;” to the right, a stream of flowing water symbolizing the continuation of Yitzhak Rabin’s path.