In the city in which he was born, for whose very walls and gates he once fought, Yitzhak Rabin was buried on Monday.
Leaders from around the world joined Israelis in silent prayer as Rabin’s coffin was brought for burial at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl Cemetery.
Thousands of people lined the streets of Jerusalem, which fell silent as the motorcade carrying the flag-draped coffin made its way slowly to the cemetery from the Knesset, where Rabin had lain in state the previous day.
Rabin, 73, was struck down by an assassin’s bullets after appearing before some 100,000 supporters at a peace rally Saturday night at Tel Aviv’s Kings of Israel Square.
According to police reports, Yigal Amir, an Israeli Jew, proudly confessed to the assassination, saying that God had told him to slay the Israeli leader.
On Sunday, some 1 million people filed past Rabin’s coffin to pay their last respects, leaving behind poems, candles and bouquets of flowers to honor the slain soldier, statesman and peacemaker.
President Clinton and his wife, Hillary, also said their respects at the Knesset after arriving in Israel to attend the funeral.
On Monday, when the coffin was carried in to the cemetery, Rabin’s widow, Leah, surrounded by her two children and grandchildren, buried her head in her hands.
A two-minute siren that sounded throughout the country marked the start of the burial ceremony.
Representatives from some 80 countries, including 60 heads of state, came to Jerusalem for the funeral. Security measures in the capital were said to be the tightest ever.
Civilian flights out of Ben-Gurion Airport were suspended, as plane after plane carrying the foreign dignitaries arrived.
Among those present were representatives from six Arab countries, including Jordan’s King Hussein and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Mubarak, who had never visited Israel’s capital before, emphasized to reporters that he did not consider this an official visit to the Jewish state, but a condolence call.
Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat did not attend the funeral, after Palestinian and Israeli officials reportedly told him that his presence in Jerusalem would provoke security problems and could prompt acts of outrage in Israel as well as among his own people.
Clinton headed a delegation that included former presidents Jimmy Carter and George Bush, Cabinet members, former secretaries of state, some 40 members of Congress and American Jewish officials.
President Ezer Weizman delivered the first of a string of eulogies by world leaders, close associates and family members.
In their remarks, the speakers referred to the greatness of Rabin the leader; their deep affection and respect for Rabin the man; and their hope that a continued commitment to the peace process would be Rabin’s lasting legacy.
In a moving eulogy, Hussein described the man who was once his enemy as “a brother and a friend.”
“Never in all my thoughts would it occur to me that my first visit to Jerusalem” by Israeli invitation would be “on such an occasion,” said Hussein.
The king also juxtaposed the slaying of Rabin with the 1951 assassination of his own grandfather, King Abdullah, which Hussein witnessed in his youth.
Hussein was unsparing in his praise of Rabin, his co-partner in the Israeli- Jordanian peace treaty signed little more than a year ago.
“As long as I live, I will be proud to have known him, to have worked with him, as a brother and as a friend and as a man. And the relationship of friendship that we had is something unique, and I am proud of that,” said Hussein.
Clinton spoke of the late prime minister as a driving force in the regional peace process.
“So let me say to the people of Israel, even in your hour of darkness, his spirit lives on, and so you must not lose your spirit,” Clinton said.
“Legend has it that in every generation of Jews from time immemorial, a just leader emerged to protect his people and show them the way to safety. Prime Minister Rabin was such a leader.”
Referring to the Torah portion in which God test Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac, Clinton said, “Now God tests our faith even more terribly for he has taken our Yitzhak.”
Acting Prime Minister Shimon Peres, whose longtime political rivalry with Rabin turned into a partnership for peacemaking, pledged to carry on the torch.
“Goodbye, my oldest brother, the bringer of peace. We will add and continue to carry this peace for near and far that you wanted and expected in your life and death,” he said.
Perhaps the most moving eulogy was given by Rabin’s 17-year-old granddaughter Noa Ben-Artzi, who tearfully described the personal pain she felt at the loss of the man she described as “my personal hero.”
“Grandpa, you were the pillar of fire before the camp, and now we’re just a camp left alone in the dark, and we’re so cold.
“We love you always, Grandpa,” she said.
Rabin’s coffin was later lowered into the grave. His headstone was to be inscribed in the same way as other Israeli soldiers: name, dates of birth and death, rank.
Yitzhak Rabin, 1922-1995, Reserve Lieutenant-General.
After the dignitaries left the cemetery, ordinary Israelis flocked to the site, still struggling to cope with their grief.
Crowds also gathered at the site of the assassination, at the Rabin home in Ramat Aviv and outside the official prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, at a custody hearing Monday in Tel Aviv, Amir, the 25-year-old Herzliya resident accused of shooting Rabin, expressed no remorse for his actions.
Amir, a law student at Bar-Ilan university, said Jewish law sanctioned the killing of anyone who gave Israel’s land away to the enemy.
Police also detained Amir’s older brother. Police reportedly told the court that Hagai Amir prepared the dumdum bullets that were used in the assassination.