CNN World News

Israel mourns

November 6, 1995
Web posted at: 12:40 a.m. EST (0540 GMT)

From Correspondent Walter Rodgers

Widow JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's body rested in a soldier's coffin outside the Israel parliament -- the Knesset -- on Sunday. A few yards away Rabin's widow Leah, grief etched deeply into her face, was embraced by her son Yugal and her daughter Dalia.

The endless stream of mourners -- hundreds of thousands -- began early in the afternoon, and extended well into the night. By mid-afternoon, dignitaries from around the globe had joined a nation to offer prayers and tears.

There is no history of political assassination in Israel, and the inevitable question -- "What has become of us?" -- was on many lips.

In Tel Aviv, many sought solace in plaintive songs while others lit candles, a Jewish tradition for the loss of a loved one.

candles guard grief

Rabin's confessed killer, Yigal Amir, stalked the prime minister through a darkened Tel Aviv square. Rabin knew of increased threats, but the old soldier would not wear a bullet-proof vest. The man who stared down Arabs in three wars would not be intimidated by unseen danger lurking in a crowd.

There were bodyguards on Saturday, but they had not sealed off the area, and Amir loitered aimlessly, posing as a driver in Rabin's motorcade.

"As far as I know they didn't have any indication of a plot, a general plan, so the theory was exactly what happened last night," said Ehud Sprinzak of Hebrew University. "The theory of a lone assassin."

Amir said he had no regrets, that God ordered him to do it.

The task of healing now falls to acting Prime Minister Shimon Peres -- who was also a target of the assassin, but escaped because he left the rally early. Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of Israel's right-wing Likud Party, said Sunday that Likud would not stand in Peres' way as he formed a new government.

likud I want to make it clear that in a democracy we will not allow sucession by bullets but by ballots," Netanyahu said. (85K AIFF sound or 85K WAV sound)

Meanwhile, a nation paralyzed by shock and grief wrestles with its soul. When the seven days of mourning are over, the debate over peace with the Palestinians will resume. It was the hatred swirling about this debate that killed Yitzhak Rabin, and it has not disappeared with one political assassination.

"When a country comes to a historical crossroads to make a historical decision, it creates tremendous controversy," said Uri Savir, the director general of Israel's Foreign Ministry. "The alternative is to give up on historical decisions." (149K AIFF sound or 149K WAV sound)

It now seems most unlikely that Israelis would give up on a cause for which they have paid so dearly. An assassin snuffed out the life of Yitzhak Rabin. But judging by the hundreds of thousands of mourners filing past his casket, there is no evidence they have stopped the cause for which he gave his life.

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