Remarks at Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's Memorial

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Tel Aviv, Israel
November 5, 2013

SECRETARY KERRY: It’s a great privilege for me and always a sad moment to come to remember the memory of a great man, a great general, a great prime minister, a great leader, a great man of peace. And one can hear his booming voice saying the words – the famous words – “We are destined to live together.”

Here, just moments before his life was taken and the possibilities of peace were disrupted through an act of violence, he stood up on that balcony with his friend, Shimon Peres, and together, they sang, “Don’t whisper a prayer. Sing a song of peace in a loud voice.” We are now 18 years since that moment, and it is clear that we need voices ready to sing a song of peace loudly, with courage, with the same determination that Prime Minister Rabin showed in his quest for peace. He dared to take the risks for peace because he believed not just that it was important for the sake of peace, but that it was vital for the security and future of Israel, and of the region.

Eighteen years is important because I am told that 18 is important in the Proverbs – the 18th Proverb, it says that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Death and life in the power of the tongue. So what we say with our voices, how we talk about peace, how we prepare the possibilities of peace are really critical to all of us. We need to avoid incitement. We need to sing that song that Prime Minister Rabin and President Peres embraced together.

Eighteen is also, I am told, very important in Hebrew, because the letters that write the word “eighteen” literally mean life, chai. I remember shouting those words once from the top of Masada in my first visit to the Holy Land. And we stood up there and together, as a group, we shouted across the chasm, “Am Yisrael Chai.” Those words meant something to me. And so maybe 18, maybe the word chai, life, will have a special meaning at this particular moment.

The Proverbs also teach us chaim. That’s something we now need to put into practice. So I come here without any illusions about the difficulties, but I come here determined to work with leaders – with the Prime Minister, with the President of the Palestinian Authority – to try to find a way forward so that Israel can live the dream that President Peres and Prime Minister Rabin expressed so eloquently and beautifully in the tragedy of that day here and in many days before that.

We will continue to work, and I can promise Israelis that America will stand by the side of Israel every step of the way. We believe this is something that is possible, that is good for all, and that it can be achieved. And I will leave here inspired by being here with Dalia and with members of the family, most importantly by seeing the symbolism of the turbulence, the earthquake that followed that moment of violence. It should rededicate every person in Israel with the possibility of a just and appropriate and fair peace which protects the security of Israel, guarantees that Israel’s security will be protected, but makes possible for people to live the words of the prime minister, “We are destined to live together,” I add, in peace. Thank you.

MR. HULDAI: We appreciate the fact that you took the time to begin your visit here in Tel Aviv, the center of Israeli democracy. In this spot, Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated because of his quest for peace. From here, he spoke. We want to tell you, Mr. Secretary, that the people of Israel and the city of Tel Aviv, therefore, want peace. And the person who will manage to bring peace, will receive our highest appreciation, and it is true.

So I wish you and all of us good luck in this challenging mission. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

MS. RABIN-PELOSSOF: Mr. Secretary, Mayor of Tel Aviv, ambassadors of Israel to Washington and Ambassador Dan Shapiro, Ambassador Martin Indyk, and all the staff that joins you, I really appreciate and I am moved – the fact that you came to this painful and tragic spot in Tel Aviv where his life was taken brutally 18 years ago. It’s very symbolic that you came here. It’s the 5th of November. Yesterday, we marked the 18th anniversary.

And we all wish you all the best because everybody that stands here understand that this is the only way, his way, that maybe was a little ahead of his time, but 18 years is enough time that has passed by, and it’s time to make peace between Israelis and the Palestinians. We wish you luck and we keep our fingers crossed. And thank you so much for coming over here. (Applause.)

PRN: 2013/T17-10