Before I saw “Rabin in His Own Words,” I never imagined that someone could unknowingly create his own autobiography. But the late Yitzhak Rabin, the former Israeli prime minister, appears to do just that through photos, home movies, memories, private letters to his family and video assembled by capable director Erez Laufer.
This not about the end of a man’s life, or the assassination of Rabin (“Rabin, The Last Day” is a documentary about his murder). Rather, it is about his motivation and determination to advance Israel.
Controversy swirled around Rabin, who remained devoted to Israel with every decision, regardless of whether it was well-received.
We see photos and video of Rabin, born in 1922 in Jerusalem, as a child – the son of a labor leader. “Talking about money was a disgrace,” he says. “If we didn't finish our oatmeal for breakfast, it would be on our plate the next day.”
We also see pivotal moments of his life and, in a broader scope, world history – for example, in 1994 he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Yasir Arafat and former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres, Rabin’s former political rival. The leader of the Israeli Defense Force, he led the way to victory during the Six-Day War in 1957.
We see Rabin not only as a military leader, but also as a progressive politician who was disliked – in fact, loathed -- by many. Soft-spoken and, considering his roles, a man of few words, Rabin remained fearless and steadfast in his beliefs, including his opinions about the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. Throughout protests and death threats, he never wavered.
Laufer lets Rabin himself do the talking in interviews much of the time.
Not only is this a portrait of Rabin, but also of his era: A young Bill Clinton was involved in the Oslo accords.
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Although the movie isn’t played for laughs, there are a couple of humorous moments, including one instance in which Rabin, at that point an Israeli Ambassador to the United States, tells Betty Ford that he doesn’t know how to dance.
Rabin’s story, particularly as it is presented here with archival footage, is the history of Israel, too. As you follow Rabin through his extraordinary life and times, you’re bound to ask yourself what would have happened if he had not been assassinated.
“I did my job, especially in terms of striving for peace,” Rabin says. “I was the prime minister with the best chance for achieving peace.”