In a way, the life and death of Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was a metaphor for modern Israel and its tangled relationship with its Arab neighbors. The Christian who takes the Bible seriously often looks with confusion at the unfolding of this relationship in modern times. Yet, biblical narratives put these contemporary relationships into right perspective, and they help us understand the meaning of the fallen Rabin.

Rabin was a soldier, the young brigade commander who helped conquer Jerusalem in the 1948 War of Independence, the chief of staff who masterminded the 1967 Six Day War when Israel conquered the Old City of Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights, and the defense minister who helped Israel withdraw from its morass in southern Lebanon.

He was a tough commander and politician. Palestinians used to say that they preferred working with the conservative Likud party, which was much more resistant to any sacrifice of land to the Arabs than Rabin's Labor party. "At least we know what we're dealing with when we deal with the Likud," they would say. During the Intifada, an uprising of Palestinians in the early 1990s, Rabin, then defense minister, responded with harsh measures, and many Palestinians died. As a result, Rabin, the man of war, had credibility with the other Israelis because of his fearlessness in protecting Israel's security and sovereignty when he began to evolve into a man of peace.

In some respects, Rabin was parallel to the late U.S. President Richard Nixon, whose early notoriety as a hater of communism enabled him during his presidency to open the door to mainland China. In other ways, compare Rabin with the biblical King David. David used his first years ...

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