Looking out across the South Lawn of the White House, a tree now stands visible at the tip of the Ellipse – an American Elm, planted Monday in memory of Yitzhak Rabin.
On a gray, biting fall day – reminiscent of the coldness Noa Ben-Artzi referred to in her moving eulogy to her grandfather – members of Congress, local dignitaries and Jewish community leaders joined leaders of the Jewish National Fund to honor Israel’s slain prime minister. “Let’s us hope that the tree we are planting today, like the seeds of peace that were planted by the late Prime Minister Rabin, will grow tall and strong like the trees that the JNF has planted on the once-barren hills of the state of Israel,” said Shlomo Gur, deputy chief of mission of the Israeli Embassy.
The 300 people gathered for the ceremony filed past the tree, each staking a yellow flag into the cold earth, symbolizing groves of the JNF intends to plant in Israel and Washington in Rabin’s honor.
Invoking Jewish tradition, Moshe Rivlin, world chairman of the JNF, said the world began with two trees – the tree of life and the tree of knowledge.
“The tragedy is that when Yitzhak Rabin reached his peak in the tree of knowledge, a human snail cut off his tree of life,” Rivlin said. “We are here today to plant a tree which is a combination of life, knowledge and hope, and we pray for peace in memory of a great soldier, a great human being, a great leader.”
Sens. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) and Charles Robb (D-Va.) both attended the ceremony.
“Not too many feet from here is the Washington Monument,” Simon told the gathering. “We said of George Washington that he was first in war first in peace, first in the hearts of his country. The really is an apt description of Yitzhak Rabin. He was a hero of war, he is a hero of peace.”
Originally intended as a celebration of Jerusalem 3000 – the 3,000th anniversary of King David’s founding of Jerusalem as his capital – the tree- planting ceremony was instead held in memory of Rabin.