O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Yitzchak Rabin

These words, written by Walt Whitman following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, have come to be linked to another sad day in history. These words, beautifully translated by Naomi Shemer and performed by Meital Trabelsi, have become the anthem commemorating November 4th, 1995; the day Yitzchak Rabin was murdered by a Jewish right-wing extremist after speaking at a peace rally in Tel Aviv.

On November 4th, 1995, I was a young man, just starting my family. My two oldest children, twins, were 4 months old and we had just finished eating lunch at a cafe in Jaffa. We had planned to attend the peace rally in the center of Tel Aviv but the babies were getting tired and fussy. We went home instead and it didn’t take long before we heard the news. Shock. Frustration. Despair. Feeling as if we had no future to look forward to. The Prime Minister of our small but proud country had been assassinated. I looked at my wife and at my twin babies, at a complete loss for words. What did this mean? What would become of us? What kind of future did my children have now that Rabin was no longer our leader? The only leader who had successfully signed peace treaties with the Palestinians.

16 years have passed and my children, now the same age as Rabin was when he joined the Palmach, are looking towards their own army service. Soon, they will be putting on a uniform and bravely protecting our home. This future that had seemed so grey and muddled in 1995, now has the strength and the hope of my children, of all the children of Israel.Wednesday, November, 9th, 2011, the country will come together in memory of Yitzchak Rabin, as we have done every year since that sad day in 1995. The words of Walt Whitman will fill the radio waves as we remember. O Captain! My Captain!

Click here for the complete text of O Captain! My Captain!

One thought on “O Captain! My Captain!

  1. Thank you for this informative post and the connection between Walt Whitman’s O’ Captain, My Captain commemorating the assassination of Abraham Lincoln with a Hebrew version by Naomi Shemer for Yitzhak Rabin. Haunting melody.

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