College mourns loss of Israeli leader

by Aaron Lisman | 11/8/95 6:00am

Members of the Dartmouth community last night mourned the death of Yitzak Rabin, the prime minister of Israel who was assassinated on Saturday.

A diverse group of students and administrators took their turns at the podium in Rollins Chapel to pay Rabin their respect with songs, prayers and remembrances.

About 400 mourners, including students, faculty, staff, administrators and Hanover residents gathered to remember Rabin. He was famous for his role in the fight to found and defend the Israeli state three decades ago, and for his leading role in recent Arab-Israeli reconciliation.

Rabin's decision several months ago to turn over Israeli occupied territories to Palestinian rule angered right-wing Israeli extremists, one of whom shot him while he was at a peace rally in Tel Aviv Saturday.

College President James Freedman, who is Jewish, called Rabin a "tough and brilliant soldier" who knew how to stick up for his nation and for his ideology but also recognized the time had come for peace.

"After adhering for his entire life to a policy of resistance to Arab and Palestinian hostility, Rabin came to recognize that the time was at hand for reconciliation," Freedman said.

Freedman compared Rabin to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln because both were leaders of a young nation "still forming its democratic ethos."

"Like Lincoln, Rabin was seeking to heal a nation riven by ideological differences," he said.

Freedman quoted Rabin, "We should not let the land flowing with milk and honey become a land flowing with blood and tears. Don't let it happen."

College Rabbi Daniel Siegel called Rabin the "true chief rabbi of the Jewish people," one who did not cling to a single ideology at the expense of all else.

Like Freedman, Siegel praised Rabin's ability to change when confronted with new circumstances.

"Yitzak Rabin knew that we are not the same Jewish people today," Siegel said. "Rabin saw that it was time to accept that we had risen from the ashes. So he did what strong, spiritual, God-centered people do. That is, he changed."

"We saw this man who knew how to wage war shake the a hand of his most bitter enemy," said Siegel, referring to Rabin's famous handshake in front of the White House with Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat in 1993.

"We saw how hard that was to do, those of us who watched him that day," Siegel said. "But we also saw him do it. If this is not what it means to be the rabbi, the teacher of the people, then I don't know what is."

Amel Ahmed '96, a member of the College's Muslim students' organization, Al-Nur, spoke about how Rabin's leadership transcended his Jewish faith and Israeli nationality. She called Rabin a leader of all people.

"In that respect," she said, "I consider him my leader. His assassination was an attack on all of us."

Hillel Vice President Shirley Sperling '98 recalled how she had once reacted to terrorist violence and how Rabin's assassination had changed that.

Sperling, who is Israeli, said every time people were killed she felt like she wanted to shoot the people responsible. She said in the past few days she has come to understand how feelings of revenge are inherently wrong and only perpetuate the cycle of violence that claimed Rabin's life.

"Enough fighting," she said. "Enough vengeance. Let's just calmly pursue peace."

Three students representing Aquinas House, the Catholic student center, led a series of prayers calling for the perpetuation of Rabin's pursuit of peace. The ceremony included various other memorial prayers and songs between speeches.

Wendy Katz '98, a member of Hillel, led a recitation of the Mourners' Kahddish, a traditional Jewish prayer recited in remembrance of loved ones passed away.

College Chaplain Gwendolyn King and Siegel began the ceremony with a mournful duet. Siegel sang in Hebrew and King sang in Latin. Throughout the evening, members of the audience joined in to sing songs and recite prayers.

King played guitar and sang a song preaching mutual understanding and the forming of channels of peace.