Mourners Pay Last Respects to Rabin
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Peace campaigner Leah Rabin’s family led hundreds of mourners Wednesday in an outdoor memorial service held at the exact spot where her husband, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated five years ago.
Mrs. Rabin was to be buried later Wednesday next to her husband at the Mt. Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem, with U.S. first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and German President Johannes Rau among those attending. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat sent a letter of condolences.
Mrs. Rabin, who had been a tireless campaigner for peace with the Palestinians, died Sunday after a bout with cancer. She was 72.
Wednesday’s observances began with a memorial service at the Tel Aviv square where Rabin was assassinated Nov. 4, 1995, by an ultranationalist Jew who tried to stop his land-for-peace agreements with the Palestinians.
Mrs. Rabin’s coffin was flanked by bird of paradise flowers and draped with an Israeli flag. A single red rose lay on the banner, just below the Star of David emblem.
Mrs. Rabin’s children, Dalia and Yuval, and grandchildren Noa and Yonatan, sat in the front row. At one point, a tearful Dalia Rabin-Peelosof hugged her daughter, Noa, to comfort her.
Israelis _ religious and secular, old and young _ solemnly walked past the coffin. Some lit small memorial candles nearby and wrote messages to Mrs. Rabin in a book under a picture of her. One girl placed small yellow flowers near the coffin.
Dozens of police were deployed around the square in a sign of the tense security situation after seven weeks of Israeli-Palestinian fighting that has killed more than 200 people, most of them Palestinians.
``I had to come here to support all the people who still believe in the peace process,″ said a Etai Oren, a teen-ager in a blue boy scout uniform.
Dudu Dotan, an Israeli actor, broke down in tears. ``We are bidding farewell not only to her,″ Dotan said. ``After he was murdered ... she stood at the head of the (peace) camp. She was a soldier for peace.″
After the assassination, the site was renamed Rabin Square and became a point of pilgrimage for many Israelis, especially supporters of Rabin’s peace policies. Mrs. Rabin would visit the square every Friday to talk with the visitors.