November 13, 1995
Web posted at: 7:05 a.m. EST (1145 GMT)
From Correspondent Jerrold Kessel
TEL AVIV, Israel (CNN) -- "Sing, sing to peace" (60K AIFF sound or 60K WAV sound) -- part of an Israeli peace song with a controversial past that's seen as conveying the essence of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's "give peace a chance" message.
It was sung in tribute at the mass communion to his memory. And in his final public act, the normally introverted Rabin shyly sang the same song at a massive peace rally just before he was gunned down by an assassin.
When it was composed 25 years ago as Israel's version of the flower generation message, army commanders objected to the hold it gained on young Israelis. But now it symbolizes Yitzhak Rabin's own transformation from skeptical peace agent to out and out peace campaigner. It is a legacy likely to grow, says the song's composer.
"To go along with the peace program and to enable people who are opposed to it, to show them the way to accept it and to live with it," says Israeli songwriter Yaakov Rotblitt.
The outpouring of emotion about their leader's death has left Israelis groping for new direction. Some sense the emergence for the first time of a mainstream Israeli peace culture, complete with its own symbol, hero and martyr rolled into one.
"I'm supporting the peace process and from now on I'm going to say it because I didn't have the chance to say it when Rabin was alive," said one young Israeli. And I'm sorry." (131K AIFF sound or 131K WAV sound)
Others draw a different conclusion: they deem national unity the prime objective.
"It's the time of unification, for healing. It's not the time for arguing which side is right," said a supporter of that idea.
Doomsayers are also in evidence.
"There is some sort of identification with Rabin as a martyr but not with the cause of peace," said one man. "When everything settles everyone will go back and return to the old beliefs. It will be worse. It will be worse because a taboo has been shattered. The second shot is always much easier than the first." (184K AIFF sound or 184K WAV sound)
But in the newly renamed Yitzhak Rabin Square -- where he met his death and where Israelis of all political persuasions still gather -- a new mood is apparent. In this contest over what lessons are to be learned from the assassination, in the square it is the message conveyed by the peace song which holds sway ... at least for now.
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