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Fan club for Rabin's assassin shocks Israelis

Amir

August 14, 1996
Web posted at: 1:30 a.m. EDT (0530 GMT)

From Correspondent Jerrold Kessel

TEL AVIV, Israel (CNN) -- A killer's smile that perplexed and infuriated most Israelis has seduced others into becoming fans of the assassin of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Three 17-year-old girls stunned the nation by boasting on Israeli television that they admire Yigal Amir, the 26-year-old conservative religious student who killed Rabin last November.

admirers

"He's my hero," blares a scrapbook. "I love you" is scrawled across pictures of Amir, cut out and pasted onto the pages.

"He was brave enough to do what many thought should have been done," one of the young admirers said.

Their school principal cautioned against making too much of juvenile idol worship. But some religious educators say the teenagers' revelation indicates their community did not conduct serious soul-searching after the assassination.

Simon

"They felt that they are not alone," Professor Uriel Simon of Bar Ilan University said of the girls. "They want to get support by some section of Israeli society, and I feel that they have ... true instincts about this case."

At the spot where Rabin was slain, graffiti exhorts passersby to "remember always." But elsewhere, another message reads, "He redeemed us," a slogan that is a play on words of the name Yigal.

More Israelis are admitting that Amir's ideas didn't die with his victim, while Rabin's political legacy has been relegated to the sidelines under a new conservative government.

Leah Rabin

Some Israelis sought to eradicate the trauma of the assassination by pushing its significance out of their minds. For Amir's family, the healing process is going in an unexpected direction as they receive hundreds of letters of support.

"We forgot that a lot of people didn't support Rabin, and those people support Yigal because they feel justice has been done," his sister, Hadas Amir, said in an interview.

Rabin's widow, Leah, said Amir's teenage fans were "stupid girls," but admitted they represented a much deeper problem. She suggested that Israelis may not have learned the lesson of her husband's death. (229K AIFF or WAV sound)

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