FAREWELL TO A PEACEMAKER : O.C. Jews Gather to Mourn, Decry Extremism : Memorial: Religious leaders address crowd of hundreds in Costa Mesa. ‘Our innocence has ended,’ Irvine rabbi says.
Expressing sorrow and disbelief, Orange County’s Jewish community turned out by the hundreds Monday to mourn assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and urge an end to the political extremism that moved a fellow Jew to kill him.
Liberal and Orthodox Jews alike packed the auditorium of the Jewish Federation campus and watched on closed-circuit television from other rooms as religious leaders remembered Rabin as a onetime warrior who had taken up the battle for peace.
Comparing Rabin’s death on Saturday to the era-defining deaths of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., speakers expressed shock that Rabin’s alleged assassin, a law student who opposes the current peace process, is himself a Jew.
Rabbi Arnold Rachlis of the University Synagogue in Irvine called the death a “terrible moment in the history of the Jewish people. Now our innocence has ended.”
Rachlis and other religious leaders blamed Saturday’s assassination on a camp of political zealots who for months had escalated the rhetoric against the 73-year-old Rabin, even to the point of calling for his death.
“It was all there,” Rachlis said. “We thought it was rhetoric. They meant it, and we must stop it.”
Rabin was recalled as a shy man whose military and political leadership played a role in almost every important moment in Israel’s 47-year history.
“From the birth of Israel to the last Shabbat, he had a hand in nearly every important event,” said Rabbi Stephen Einstein, flanked onstage by American and Israeli flags at half-staff. Rabin was “the general who came to realize that while the country must remain strong . . . victory comes not from arms but from adversaries sitting down,” he said.
Rabbi Yitzchok Newman called the assassination a “despicable” act that violated the most basic Jewish beliefs.
“This goes against all the teachings of the Torah and our sages,” Newman said. “This is unforgivable.”
Speakers returned several times to a song of peace that Rabin sang at Saturday’s rally just moments before he was shot.
Quoting from the song, “Shir L’ Shalom,” Einstein urged the congregants to pursue the peace sought by Rabin.
“Don’t say the day will come. You--we--must bring that day,” Einstein said. “It’s not a dream.”
Earlier Monday, some Jewish leaders called on the faithful to battle festering divisions by performing good deeds for others.
“If there’s a person you’re estranged from, pick up the phone and call them,” said Rabbi David Eliezrie. “We need some kind of spiritual response. We need to do something real.”
On their way out of the memorial service, mourners jotted personal messages to Rabin’s family on forms provided by the center, to be mailed together. Outside, the crowd held lighted candles and sang the Israeli national anthem.
Clarita Karlin, 65, of Laguna Hills burst into tears as she sought to describe the shock of Rabin’s death.
“For me, it’s been devastating that a Jew killed another,” Karlin said. “It’s really hard to believe.”
Murray Lobel, a 31-year-old Irvine resident, recalled meeting Rabin during a tour of Israel three years ago. Lobel said Rabin was shy and offered a weak handshake that seemed to bespeak a lifetime of struggles.
Lobel said he spotted the same tired handshake during television coverage of Rabin joining other Middle Eastern leaders at the White House for a peace signing.
“It looked like all the lifeblood had gone out of him,” Lobel said. “He’d given everything to the state of Israel.”