Israelis, U.S. Jews Honor Rabin on Anniversary of Assassination

Israelis across the country gathered to light memorial candles, pray and leave flowers for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated one year ago by a religious Jew opposed to his peace policies.

Speaking Thursday at a memorial service at Rabin’s grave on Mount Herzl, an emotional Yonatan Ben Artzi asked for his grandfather’s forgiveness.

“Forgive us for believing in you, for being enchanted by your magic, for closing our eyes and not looking after you as we should have,” he said. “A year has gone by and it’s as if nothing has happened. We stood here stunned, looking for the light at the end of this horrible nightmare, and the light never came.”

Along with expressions of sorrow and calls for national unity, there were warnings that the political rifts the murder exposed had only deepened since the Nov. 4 assassination.

In an address before students in Tel Aviv, Rabin’s son, Yuval, said the nation had not done enough soul-searching over the past year.

Referring to the incident this week in which a religious Jew allegedly threw hot tea on Labor Knesset member Yael Dayan in Hebron, Rabin said, “The boiling tea will turn again into deadly bullets, and the next political murder will cover us all in blood.”

At a special session in the Knesset, President Ezer Weizman called on the nation to quickly uproot the weeds that spread on the eve of Rabin’s assassination.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom some members of the Labor Party have accused of bearing responsibility for the violent rhetoric that preceded Rabin’s murder, stressed that peace must first begin at home.

“Yitzhak Rabin symbolized what unified and brought together a people,” the premier said. “He was able to unite the nation around common issues.”

Opposition leader Shimon Peres said that even before Rabin was killed, there were efforts by those opposed to his peace policies to “murder his character” through verbal attacks in which he was called a murderer and a traitor.

“If we want to truly preserve your memory,” Peres said, “we must continue on the path of peace you started.”

Thousands of people gathered at the Tel Aviv square where Rabin was shot to light memorial candles.

Television and radio broadcast special programs and songs that were played in the days after Rabin’s murder.

In many ways, the scenes seemed an eery repetition of those days, when groups of young people gathered in circles to light candles, cry and sing quiet songs.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people gathered for a memorial in New York where speakers paid tribute to Rabin’s leadership, courage and compassion and called for a rededication to his values and his dream of peace.

Madeleine Albright, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and New York’s Israeli Consul General Colette Avital, were among the notables honoring Rabin.

The tribute, sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and the Israeli Consulate in New York, mirrored other memorials across the nation.

The Israeli Embassy in Washington was to hold a tribute to Rabin Thursday night and Rabin supporters were planning to hold a candlelight vigil outside the embassy to reaffirm his vision for peace.

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