Political and religious leaders around the world expressed their profound shock and sorrow over the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and praised and slain leader as a champion of peace.
They also called on the people of Israel and the Middle East to redouble their efforts in their search for peace as a fitting memorial to Rabin.
At the same time, Jewish communities worldwise came together in the hours after the attack to share their grief and show solidarity with the State of Israel.
Some of the world leaders – including U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros- Ghali, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien – issued statements shortly before leaving their countries to attend the funeral in Israel on Monday.
At the United Nations, Boutros-Ghali condemned “in the strongest possible terms this outrageous act of terror which has struck down one of the greatest leaders in Israel’s history.”
Boutros-Ghali, as the former acting foreign minister of Egypt, accompanied the late President Anwar Sadat on his groundbreaking trip to Jerusalem in 1977. Sadat himself was assassinated in 1981.
In Rome, Pope John Paul II condemned the killing at his weekly Sunday address in St. Peter’s Square.
“I fervently hope this grave and painful episode does not disturb in an irreparable way the search for peace but rather serves as a further stimulus,” he said.
“My heart is bleeding,” said Italian Foreign Minister Susanna Agnelli. “I am deeply worried about the possible repercussions of what happened tonight can have on the peace process in the Middle East.”
Roman Jews flocked to the city’s main synagogue Saturday night for an impromptu prayer service after learning of the assassination. They planned a formal memorial service for Monday night.
In Germany, Bundestag President Rita Sussmuth, speaking Sunday before a women’s congress of the Christian Democratic Union Party, called for a minute of silence to honor Rabin. Socialist Democratic Party leaders gathered in front of the Israeli Embassy in Bonn. Private citizens by candles and flowers in front of the embassy.
Sussmuth and Socialist leader Rudolf Scharping were scheduled to accompany German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, President Roman Herzog and Kohl to the funeral Monday.
Jacques Santer, president of the European Commission, said in Brussels on Sunday that Israel “has lost a great leader.”
“His death is a very severe blow for the peace process in the Middle East,” Santer said.
Czech President Vaclav Havel deplored the attack and said he was “deeply moved by the act of terrorism” because he “highly honored Rabin and his work.”
But the chief rabbi of the Czech Republic, Karol Sidon, while expressing his shock over the attack, emphasized that “many Israelis were pushed into a situation in which they had no say on important matters.”
The Israeli government must learn from his incident that “there are dramatic divisions in Israeli society.”
In Canada, Chretian said, “The world has lost a great man dedicated to peace and reconciliation.”
Memorial services were planned by the Jewish communities in Toronto and Montreal for Monday night.
Goldie Hershon, national president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said that “nothing as terrible as this has ever happened in Israel.”
Rabbi Reuben Poupko, president of the Rabbinical Council of Montreal and right- wing activist, denounced the murder.
“There are people in my community on all sides of political debate in Israel, but there are no divisions of this issue. We are all feeling a deep sense of shock, utter horror and a profound sense of personal and communal loss.”
Jewish Agency emissaries to in the former Soviet Union reported that they received dozens of faxes and telegrams from government leaders in Moscow, Odessa, St. Petersburg, Kiev and other capitals.
Messages of condolence were also issued in South America, where Venezuelan President Rafael Caldera and Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori paid tribute to Rabin and urged the continuation of the peace process for which he gave his life.