Pledging to “step up the struggle for peace” and to “counter the threat of terror with unshakable resolve,” President Clinton joined Washington’s Jewish community at a memorial service for the victims of recent terror bombings in Israel.
“Our faith may be shaken, but at times like this, it is all the more important to persevere,” Clinton told an overflow crowd of about 500 people at the Israeli Embassy.
The Washington gathering was one of many memorials held across the country this week.
“These fanatical acts were not aimed simply at killing innocent people, they were clearly aimed at killing the promise of peace,” Clinton said.
“We must not allow them to prevail,” he added. “The best way to defeat them is to first restore security, and then to bolster the peace they fear. That will take away their very reason for being.”
Clinton stood with Israeli Ambassador Itamar Rabinovich and leaders of Washington’s Jewish community as a local rabbi read the names of the nearly 60 people killed in four bombings over the last two weeks.
“Sixty is an awfully large number,” Rabinovich said. “It must not blur the individual identity of each man, woman and child who lost their lives this past week.”
In New York, a memorial gathering organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations included speakers Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R- N.Y.), Gov. George Pataki of New York and Israel’s consul general in New York, Colette Avital.
“At no time have we lived through a terror campaign of this magnitude and scope,” said Avital, but “we cannot allow the terrorists to set our agenda and determine our lives.”
“Our government is determined to do everything possible,” she said, “to bring this horror to an end.”
Avital read a message from Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who thanked Clinton for U.S. assistance to Israel and pledged that his “government will not shy [away] from any means to ensure the personal security of all its citizens.”
The remarks of Leonard Eisenfeld, the father of Matthew Eisenfeld, the 25-year- old rabbinical student from Connecticut who was killed in last month’s Jerusalem bomb attack, were especially poignant.
“We need you, our people,” he said on behalf of his family, “for your strength and support, and we wish to offer you courage and solace.”
He spoke of the condolence call he received by telephone from Peres the day his son was killed. He said he told Peres that he “had loved him [Peres] for many years” and “wanted him to have courage in the days to come.”
“Together, we gain strength,” said Eisenfeld.
The families of two other recent American bombing victims, Sara Duker and Alisa Flatow, were also present.
New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani also addressed the crowd of several hundred and said he was planning to visit Israel in the combing days to show his solidarity with the Israeli people.