Double Life – Uniforms

fubiniBy Daniela Fubini*

As the square fills up with youth, I sit by the wide street leading to it and observe. The stream of groups made of thirty-forty youngsters marches peacefully towards Kikar Rabin: the large majority of them was not born yet, on the 4th of November 1995, when Yitzhak Rabin was murdered and his murder brought the peace process to a halt. I look at the colours of their shirts: many blue, with the familiar white strings – Hashomer Hatzair; and a very large number of blue shirts with red strings – the No’ar Hapo’el, including several girls happily sporting a hijab. Along them march the white shirts, the Bnei Akiva, the religious youth movement who finally joined the annual memorial only a few years ago.

Over the years, the memorial of Rabin’s assassination has become the day of the youth. This time, groups of high-school kids arrived to Tel Aviv already on Friday, and were enrolled in 36 hours thick learning programs, with the older youngsters teaching them about Rabin himself and about the history of Israel, the place they were born and are trying to understand, right before wearing another uniform, receiving a weapon and spending three years (plus 20 years in reserve duty) defending it.

I remember the uneasy feeling of being part of some sort of an army, salute to the flag in the morning and night security shifts during summer camps, back in my own youth – and we grew up in the most peaceful Italy. These kids now flooding to the Kikar, so many wearing the same shirt I still have somewhere, in one or two years will become soldiers. A whole different story. A whole different history.

When peace seemed close, or close enough at least, we used to dream of the first generation of Israelis who would not need to serve in the army and die in battle. Today, 20 years later, that generation is already in the army and some have already died, last summer in Gaza, for example.

The Kikar is full already; Bill Clinton reminds us that part of remembering Rabin “the soldier in the army of Peace” is getting his work done, already.
For if not now, then when, and if not us, then who?

* Daniela Fubini (Twitter @d_fubini) lives and writes in Tel Aviv, where she arrived in 2008 from Turin via New York.).