ASSASSINATION AFTERMATH : As Nation Mourns, Individuals Grieve : Israel: Diverse peoples, communities across the country try to cope in the aftermath of Rabin’s killing.
“This Week,” promises the movie marquee in a glitzy American-style mall on the outskirts of the city, “Assassins.”
Sorry, fans, Stallone won’t make it. On Tuesday afternoon, the movie house is shuttered and the mall is almost deserted.
Pasted on a pillar is the reason: a black-lettered death notice for a prime minister who met his assassin at a peace rally Saturday--an instant of horror that reached into every Israeli’s life.
Across Israel now, official mourning for Yitzhak Rabin echoes painfully among diverse peoples and communities confronted by the collective and individual challenge of accommodating to the aftermath of his killing. Coping.
In a land where stress has long been a national sport, it is everyone’s game: skeptical new immigrants, scarred liberal kibbutzniks, frightened young students, restless ranks of mourners.
“If people must buy something, they apologize--'It is for something that was already scheduled and can’t be changed,’ ” says Rachel Weizel, alone in a children’s clothing store.
At the glass-roofed Jerusalem Mall, there are islands of uneaten baked goods, treasure chests of costume jewelry winking brightly at no one. A handful of people are eating junk food, and there are only a few window shoppers; although every shop is open, nearly all are empty.
“It’s been like this since Rabin died. People just stopped coming. I’d rather be home too,” says Yael Weitzman, custodian of a women’s shoe shop.
At a computer software store, Yafa Rahmany guesses--with satisfaction--that most customers have opted out, however briefly, of the consumer society.
“I’m glad that people have sensibilities that allow them to slow down, to reflect. At a time like this, I don’t really feel like serving customers anyway,” Rahmany says.
The kibbutz called Ramat Rachel was founded in 1926 to protect Jerusalem. Now Israel’s growing capital is clawing at its flanks, but the cooperative is still on the frontier. It is a stone’s throw from the West Bank town of Bethlehem, scheduled soon to pass to Palestinian administration.
With about 150 kibbutzniks, Ramat Rachel is a liberal outpost that grows apples and cherries, operates a large guest house and weeps for a kindred spirit slain by an extremist Jew. Members of the kibbutz were among the giant crowd in Tel Aviv singing for peace Saturday night when the assassin struck.
“It’s as if Rabin were part of our kibbutz family . . . too personal to discuss,” says kibbutz leader Sharon Poland. “Forgive us, but it’s as if we are sitting shiva "--the traditional seven days of Jewish mourning during which a family prays and receives visitors.
“Like the death of J.F.K. for Americans, this marks the end of Camelot for us,” says kibbutz member Barney Sternfield. “We are the humanist face of Judaism, and that face is streaming with tears.”
Not far from the kibbutz lies the tomb of the biblical Rachel, wife of Jacob, one of the founders of Judaism. An ugly concrete screen shields the tomb from the main street of a busy Arab town. Three teen-age Israeli soldiers lounge at the gate.
“I was not surprised by the murder; it was clear from the moment [Rabin] assumed power,” says Oren, the squad leader. “But it has hurt all of us. We can’t know what’s going to happen now. Everything is a big mess.”
Coping means more confusion at the hillside rural community of Givat Hamatos, where about 1,400 people live in blocky prefab homes. About half the people were homeless Israelis; the rest are immigrant Russians leavened by about 35 families of Jews from Ethiopia.
“They didn’t like Rabin as a leader, but now everybody is upset, confused,” says Yonni Hyman, a young Israeli administrator. “The children, in particular, are having problems adjusting. ‘What will happen to us now?’ they ask.”
It is not so long since residents protesting the cost of electricity shouted a slogan fashionable with the right wing: “Rabin traitor.” Now, says Hyman, the new immigrants recognize that the State of Israel suddenly has many new problems more important than accommodating them.
“We have come to a hard life in a new land, and now we are very sad,” says Ethiopian Abbe Rubel, a father of 10 children, one of whom is serving in the Israeli army.
Rene Cassin High School in the heart of Jerusalem has paid a special price for the search for peace. Last year, six of its recent graduates died as soldiers, two killed by a bomb and four in Lebanon.
“Do not murder,” urge white characters stark on black cloth in the lobby of the 1,200-student school. Between classes, students pause to light candles before the cloth. It is the first day of school since Rabin’s slaying. Teen-agers hug one another as if greeting friends they have not seen for a long time.
“It is much quieter here today than usual. I think the children fear that difficult times are among us. They wonder if there will be a civil war among Jews,” says principal Yehezkel Gabay.
“The surprising thing is that the students are dealing with Rabin as if he had been a friend, a recent graduate here, a member of their families--one of us,” he says. “I wonder if it isn’t the same for the whole country.”
A fair number of students are children of Jewish settlers who hated Rabin, he says, but the entire school seems chastened by his death.
“The peace he sought is really for the children. Maybe it will come. I hope that earnestly as the father of a son who enters the army in three weeks,” Gabay says.
“I think maybe the children too want to see his work finished, that the death of Rabin has united in them their hope for peace and the fears they will face as soldiers.”
In the school lobby, 17-year-old Alona Roded is lighting a candle.
“The ground has been taken out from under me. I’m in outer space,” she says. “I’m trying to cope, but only now do I realize what is happening to this country.”
Says Shiri Aloni, 15, “We have to wake up, do something. The peace will only get strong now; it has to. Her friend Mairav Simantov, lighting her own candle, says, “Violence is wrong. We know that now. Before we sat and did nothing. Now is the time to rise up and change things. We have the strength now.”
Israel buried its fallen leader on a hilltop. By the thousands, people walk in steady procession up the bush-fringed paths of Mount Herzl. There, in a cluster of pines, they stand, mostly in silence, around the flower-covered grave.
There is Sister Elizabeth, visiting the Holy Land with 40 Roman Catholic pilgrims from Munster, Germany.
“We thought that we should honor this man of peace,” she says.
Nearby, an Israeli man paces restively around the grave, his 3-year-old son in his arms.
“He is too young to understand, but he will remember; his father promises that,” the Israeli says.
A young immigrant from France stares fixedly at the grave. “There is nothing to fear now. The worst thing has already happened,” he says softly.
A squall freshens the hilltop, driving away many people, but not all. The hardiest stand fast in the rain, alone with their thoughts.