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Thousands Attend Ofer’s Funeral

Avraham Ofer, the Housing Minister who committed suicide Monday, was buried at the Kiryat Shaul cemetery here today. The funeral, during a cold winter rain storm, was attended by thousands of mourners headed by President Ephraim Katzir and Premier Yitzhak Rabin.

Rabin, in a solemn eulogy, said he had told Ofer, only a day before his death, that he believed him innocent of allegations of wrong-doing in a housing company scandal, the pressures of which had caused him to take his life.

The throng at the cemetery stood apart from Ofer’s widow and three sons as the latter recited the kaddish at the gravesite. Then the El Moleh Rachamim was chanted followed by the final prayer, Tziduk Ha Din, and the funeral was over. Silently the Cabinet ministers, Knesset members, Histadrut officials, the honor guard and the many friends and associates of Ofer departed the rain swept graveyard.

MOST CHARGES FOUND BASELESS

Only a few hours earlier, information emanating from “most highly placed sources” said that police investigators had checked out 27 of the 32 charges brought against Ofer and found them baseless. The inquiry into the remaining charges was not completed and probably never will be. Legal experts pointed out that it is virtually impossible, as well as unjust, to investigate the deeds of a man now dead who cannot answer questions that may arise in a continued investigation.

Thus, Ofer’s name may never be fully cleared as he had predicted it would be in his suicide note. But Rabin sought to dispel lingering doubts about Ofer’s integrity. “Here we stand,” he said, “pained and mournful over the coffin of our friend Ofer whose life was a symbol of a generation that bore the burdens of the preparations for Statehood and the establishment of the State, its up building, its development. Avraham was a mixture of an ardent lover of literature and poetry, and yet a man of excellent executive ability, readiness to help a friend, fighting for his views even if they were not accepted by the majority.”

RABIN BELIEVED OFER INNOCENT

Rabin added: “We knew his innocence. On Sunday he came to me and said, ‘Yitzhak, believe me, I am innocent of any offense.’ And I told him, I, Yitzhak Rabin, believe you.”

Turning to newsmen at the gravesite, the Premier said grimly, “To the people who spread rumors, his death will be a lesson. It will move people and teach them to beware of any unfounded charges, to beware of the printed word when it seeks to pass judgment without trial.” He concluded his eulogy with the words, “We believe in your innocence and it is with great pain that we now attend your funeral. May your memory be blessed.”

One person at the funeral was heard to remark that if Rabin had said those words publicly earlier he might have prevented Ofer’s tragic death. Only hours before he took his life. Ofer reportedly complained of “foot-dragging” by Rabin with respect to the police investigation of his activities. According to television reporter Avraham Kushnir, Ofer told him in a telephone interview that he had asked Rabin for details of the charges against him or a speedy conclusion of the police probe. The Premier promised “tomorrow” but “nothing happened tomorrow,” Kushnir said Ofer told him.

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