Director-General pays tribute to Yitzhak Rabin’s legacy as a peacemaker

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The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, paid tribute to the legacy of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as peacemaker at a ceremony held at UNESCO on 4 November to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the statesman’s assassination.

The Director-General recalled Yitzhak Rabin’s conviction that people want peace and their voices need to be heard. She recalled Mr Rabin’s words at UNESCO as he received the Houphouët-Boigny Prize in 1993: “Peace will be built slowly, day by day, through modest deeds, and countless spontaneous details. It will be built, step by step, by people.” 

“This is the legacy of Yitzhak Rabin,” she said. “It is the legacy of a great statesman, who was able to rise above the passions of the moment, to look ahead, to set goals for a better future for all women and men, to explore building real peace, even with adversaries. More than ever, we must renew with this vision of real peace, to imagine together a better future.” 

Ambassador Carmel Shama Hacohen, Permanent Delegate of Israel to UNESCO, also paid tribute to Yitzhak Rabin’s historic role as a champion of peace and reconciliation. He ended his address with an exhortation: “Let’s hope and pray, but most importantly let’s act as soon as possible, so a maximum of those, whose tears were shed 20 years ago, will be able to shed tears of joy and happiness celebrating peace agreements between Israel and its neighbors.” 

Yitzhak Rabin was the Prime Minister of the State of Israel from 1974 to 1977 and then from 1992 to 4 November 1995, when he was assassinated at a peace rally in Tel-Aviv. 

In 1993, Yitzhak Rabin was awarded the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize along with Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat in recognition of their efforts to lead their people toward peace. In 1994, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering the Oslo Agreement and his work for peace in the Middle East. 

The commemoration ceremony took place at UNESCO’s Square of Tolerance, in the presence of the President of UNESCO General Conference, Stanley Mutumba Simataa, the Chairperson of the Executive Board, Mohamed Samed Amr, Aliza Bin-Noun, Ambassador of Israël to France, Beate Klarsfeld, UNESCO Honorary Ambassador and Special Envoy for Holocaust Education and the Prevention of Genocide. The event featured a musical interlude by the renowned violinist and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Ivry Gitlis. The Square of Tolerance is a space designed by Israeli artist Dani Karavan and dedicated to the memory of Yitzhak Rabin. 

The event was organized by UNESCO and the Permanent Delegation of Israel to the Organization.