Israelis Light Candles, Weep And Remember Rabin
JERUSALEM, Israel (AP) _ In an outpouring of emotion, Israelis lit candles, wept and said prayers for Yitzhak Rabin today to mark the year since his assassination by a Jewish extremist dashed hopes that peace with the Arabs was within reach.
``We are still swimming in a sea of confusion ... looking for a way out,″ Rabin’s grandson, Yonathan Ben-Artzi, said at a memorial at Rabin’s grave in a Jerusalem pine grove. ``We are no longer the same family, the same people.″
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood in the front row of mourners at Mount Herzl Cemetery, but did not speak _ honoring a request by the Rabin family, which held him responsible, in part, for the hate-filled political climate that led to the murder.
The assassination occurred last Nov. 4, but according to the Hebrew calendar, this year the anniversary falls today.
Netanyahu later shook hands with Rabin’s widow, Leah, who showed no emotion, her eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses.
Israel TV said President Clinton called Mrs. Rabin just before the ceremony.
In the Tel Aviv square where Rabin was assassinated, hundreds of Israelis gathered today to remember the military man who late in life had embarked on the risky path of peace.
Teen-agers sat on the pavement, in front of a sea of memorial candles, some arranged in the shape of a peace symbol. Friends embraced and wept.
``Friend, we miss you,″ read a banner headline in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper. Radio stations played ``To Cry for You,″ a ballad by pop idol Aviv Geffen that has become an anthem of lost opportunities.
The sorrow seemed to briefly unite Israelis today, covering up the rifts that have been deepening since the assassination.
The political violence has pitched secular Jews against religious ones, supporters of peace against rightists, and European-descended Jews who still dominate the country against Middle Eastern Sephardic Jews like Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir.
Rabin’s peace effort, which seemed close to success on the night of his slaying, has suffered a series of blows. Earlier this year, Israelis’ confidence in peace was badly shaken by four terrorist bombings by Islamic militants, and Netanyahu, who bitterly fought the peace process as opposition leader, won elections in May. Since then Israel’s relations with the Palestinians and other Arabs have been badly strained.
In a sign of continuing tensions, Israeli troops sealed the West Bank and Gaza Strip today and searched cars at Tel Aviv checkpoints, responding to warnings that Palestinians militants were plotting suicide attacks.
Schools throughout the country held assemblies dedicated to Rabin’s legacy. At Gymnasia Rehavia high school in Jerusalem, students wept and embraced each other as excerpts from Rabin’s last speech were played over a loudspeaker today.
Assemblies were also held in Israeli prisons, including Ohalei Kedar Prison where Amir, is serving a life term.
Amir opposed Rabin’s peace agreements with the Palestinians, and has said he had the God-given right to stop Rabin from giving up parts of the biblical Land of Israel.
Prison Authority spokesman Moshe Malul said Amir would not be joining the remembrance today.
Netanyahu’s office said he called Rabin’s widow Leah to express condolences Wednesday, telling her the date of the slaying ``is one of the most horrible days in the history of Israel.″
Earlier today, Rabin’s son Yuval cast direct blame on Netanyahu, though not mentioning him by name. He referred to an anti-government demonstration last year in which Netanyahu, then opposition leader, had marched in front of a coffin with the inscription: ``Rabin, killer of Zionism.″
Saying his father’s assassin had not acted alone, Rabin said: ``I blame those who incited ... I blame those who walked at the head of the funeral procession with the coffin.″
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat paid tribute to his peace partner Wednesday on Israel TV’s Channel 2, saying he and Rabin had grown to appreciate each other since their first reluctant handshake on the White House lawn in September 1993.
``Shalom, Haver,″ Arafat ended, using the Hebrew phrase that means ``Goodbye, friend.″