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Israeli Leaders Voice Concern over Assassin’s Teen-age Fans

August 12, 1996
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A television interview with three teen-age girls who professed to be members of a “Yigal Amir fan club” has prompted a storm of debate over whether there is widespread admiration among Israel’s religious youth for Yitzhak Rabin’s convicted assassin.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that if indeed it was a widespread phenomenon, it must be “uprooted immediately.”

Education Minister Zevulun Hammer ordered the creation of a special committee to investigate the matter.

Rabin’s widow, Leah, said that nine months after her husband’s murder, she fears that Amir has a huge following.

The controversy follows a report broadcast on Israel Television’s weekend magazine in which three 17-year-old girls from the Kiryat Gat area in southern Israel spoke about their deep admiration for Amir, who is serving a life prison sentence for murdering Rabin last Nov. 4.

The girls, whose faces were concealed by straw hats, said they sent Amir love letters, made scrapbooks with his pictures and newspaper clippings about him and videotaped television segments about him.

They said they were drawn to him by his “cute smile,” adding that the former law student who shot Rabin because he opposed the premier’s peace policies was “a national hero.”

Amir had sought religious justification for his act, saying that Rabin’s policies with the Palestinians were putting Jewish lives at risk.

The students, who attend the Gross State Religious School in Kiryat Gat, said their parents knew of their infatuation and did not interfere.

They added it was clear that some teachers at their school supported Amir’s actions, even if they did not express this openly.

“You can see that some of the teachers supported the murder,” one of the girls said.

“They won’t say that explicitly. They prefer to be quiet. But when we pressure them, you can clearly see they support it.”

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau said he planned to be at the Gross School when the school year opens later this month.

He reportedly said that if the teachers did indeed support Amir, they should be put in jail.

Hammer described the girls’ sentiments as grave, but described them as “an isolated act of adolescent craziness.”

“The state religious schools do not condone murder in any way, and certainly not the murder of the late prime minister,” Hammer told Israel Radio.

But former Education Minister Amnon Rubinstein of the left- wing Meretz Party said many of Israel’s young — especially from the national religious camp – – had developed anti-Rabin sentiments as a result of the heated rhetoric directed against the premier in the months preceding his assassination.

“It’s the inevitable result of this vilification campaign against Rabin, who was described as a traitor, depicted as a murderer,” he told Israel Radio.

Members of Rubinstein’s Meretz Party demonstrated outside the Gross School on Sunday, where teachers and administrators convened an urgent meeting to discuss the situation.

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