What I'd write more about if I had more time to compose my thoughts
1. Ten years since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin:
a. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard he'd been killed. It changed me forever, not because I'd been a particular fan or non-fan of Rabin himself, but because he had been killed by a Jew, and by a "religious" Jew no less (again, there's the "more like me than not like me" factor . . . though the fact that he is a vile murderer and I am definitely not would put us on different sides of the like-unlike divide, I suppose!) From then on, I myself became suspicious of the ideologies of those "like me," and certainly couldn't blame secular Israelis for being mad as hell. The aftermath in the religious-secular divide was horrible on many levels . . . and it's because of that that I mourn. I do not mourn Rabin himself as much as I miss the assumptions we -- and by "we" I mean all Israelis, and religious ones in particular-- allowed ourselves to live with before he was killed.
b. I read the media reports about Rabin and listen to the memorial services on the radio, and wonder, when they call him a "man of peace," are they referring only to the Oslo accords (which, regardless of whether you think they are a good idea, were certainly a bold thing for him to do), or to his entire career? My understanding is that Rabin was considered a "Labor hawk." So what are they talking about, exactly? And when Ariel Sharon says that he "loved" Rabin even when they were at odds, is he serious? Does he "love" Shimon Peres? Or would he just say he did after Peres was dead?
c. Regarding the media reports that run every year asking "what have we learned from Rabin's death?" and answering: "nothing," I say: Yes, we have. The specter of Rabin's assassination was present throughout all the rallies protesting the Gaza disengagement last spring and summer, and certainly throughout the disengagement himself. I do not know whether it is fair to say that events would have progressed more violently had Rabin never been assassinated by a right-wing Jew, but I do think it's fair to say that the assassination was one important factor in the fact that things went as non-violently as they did. The religious right-wing should get credit where credit is due.
2. A Palestinian boy who was shot by the IDF because they mistook his toy gun for a real one had his organs donated by his family to six Israelis. Other bloggers have written more beautifully than I have time to do right now about the beauty of the gesture, but what I would like to focus on at the moment is the idea of organ donation generally, and the fact that it is reprehensible that more Jews do not donate organs when it is possible to do so. The idea that organ donation is categorically against halacha is a myth, and because so many Jews believe that myth, hundreds of Israelis die, needlessly, every year, waiting for organs that could have come but didn't. Israel was even disqualified from an international organ-donation system, because Israelis were taking organs and not giving any. This is terrible.
I urge anyone reading this, and particularly anyone living in Israel, to go to the site of the Halachic Organ Donation Society, read up on the various rabbinical opinions about the conditions under which one may or may not donate organs, and consider signing up for a donor card. And, please tell your family about your wishes, as ultimately it will be up to them to decide whether other lives might be saved as the result of their tragedy. The presence of a donor card in your wallet makes no difference if your family doesn't know what you want.
I realize this is a morbid topic, but again, people die because of an idea in Jewish culture that organ donation is against Jewish law. It doesn't have to be this way. Read the site, and tell others about it. The life that is saved by creating more awareness could be yours, or mine.
3. Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of the matriarch Rachel (wife of Jacob, mother to Joseph and Benjamin). According to the Bible, Rachel weeps over her children being in exile, and waits sadly for us to return to the holy land.
I have always loved all the stories about Rachel, especially the one indicating that it is in her merit that God did not destroy the Jews, even in times that they were worshipping idolotry. According to that story, all the matriarchs and patriarchs (or, their souls, since they'd already passed on) argued with God, giving reasons that He should have mercy. But it was only Rachel who convinced Him, arguing that surely, if she were able to overcome her jealousy and allow her older sister, Leah, to marry Jacob first, the Almighty can overcome His jealousy when his children worship idols? Her meritorious action indeed calmed God down.
And so now she waits for us, crying bitterly because we have vanished into the diaspora, and the Bible says that Hashem comforts her with the promise that one day her children will return.
The location of Rachel's tomb, or what traditionally is her tomb (actually, my understanding is that we don't really know for sure where she is buried, but a shrine was set up in the approximate location), is in what is now a hostile area of the West Bank. Without getting into any of the politics of that, I wanted to point you to photos from a trip that was organized by Arutz 7 and Kumah, who brought dozens of Jewish Israelis to Rachel's tomb to commemorate the anniversary of her death. I would have liked to join the trip, since getting to Rachel's tomb is sort of tricky if you aren't in an organized group with a bullet-proof bus, but had to make the choice between the trip or my gemara class, and the class won.
The kumah website often annoys me no end. My political leanings, and those of the Kumah leaders, are very different. Sometimes I read their site and just want to pull my hair out! But I have to say, the pictures touched me (if not all of the captions). Again, I am not interested in getting into the politics of visiting Rachel's tomb right now. I am focusing on it purely from a religious perspective, and am happy that my co-religionists made an effort to honor the memory of a woman who, somewhere in our incomprehensible cosmos, is waiting desperately for us all to come home.