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MIT Gathers to Honor Rabin In Lobby 7 Memorial Service


Gabor Csanyi--The Tech
Jonathan Katz '96 and Naomi S. Korn '97 president and vice president of MIT Hillel, address members of the Institute community gathered in Lobby 7 yesterday afternoon for a memorial service for Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin was assassinated following a peace rally in Tel Aviv Saturday afternoon.

By Shang-Lin Chuang
News editor

The unified chorus of Shir Lashalom, the Song of Peace, together with sobs and sighs echoed in Lobby 7 yesterday as members of the MIT community gathered to honor the slain prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin.

Rabin, the country's eighth prime minister and the first born in Israel, was assassinated Saturday by Yigal Amir, a Jewish, right-wing law student, following the country's largest peace rally. His funeral, attended by several heads of state including President Clinton, was held yesterday in Jerusalem.

Rabin is considered most responsible for the Middle East peace process, in which Israel signed agreements with Jordan and the Palestinians, its historic enemies. Rabin and Palestinian Liberation Organization leader YasserArafat were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for signing a historic peace agreement in 1993.

Rabin the peacemaker began his life as a warrior, first as a soldier during the 1948 Middle East war defending Jerusalem against Arab troops, and later as the Israeli Army Chief of Staff during the Six Day War.

The memorial service included remarks from President Charles M. Vest, MITHillel Director Miriam Rosenblum, Academic Affairs Officer of the Consulate of Israel Samuel Schwartz, Sister Mary Karen Powers of the MIT Chaplaincy, and Professor of Economics Franklin M. Fisher, of Harvard University's Institute for Social and Economic Policy in the Middle East.

Daniel Katz G lit a candle in memory of Rabin. Hillel President Jonathan Katz '96 and Vice President Naomi S. Korn '97 led the audience in a reading of Psalm 23.

The audience joined Techiya, the MIT Jewish acappella group, in singing the Jewish prayer, Oseh Shalom, and the Israeli national anthem, Hatikva.

MIT community shocked

Rabin "was a soldier, a nation builder, statesman, and most importantly, a man of peace," Vest said. "We need to take this great tragedy and think about the lessons of his life."

"We were all shaken to our very core... having lost a great leader, man, and a fellow human being," Rosenblum said during the service.

It was a dark and tragic day, Schwartz said. It was a terrible loss for all Jews, all lovers of peace, and the entire state of Israel.

Rabin was a politician whose convictions lured him to action, Schwartz said. He was a leader of universal proportions, and now that he is dead, "the rest of us are left without a direction."

"When I heard the news, I was in shock and disbelief," Rosenblum said. "I became speechless. No one can imagine something like this ever happening."

"I have been walking around numb since I heard the information," she said.

Accomplishments remembered

Rabin's actions demonstrated the true meaning of courage, Schwartz said. He exemplified both the courage to overcome the enemy and declare war, and the courage to keep peace. "He was a hero in war and peace," he said.

Rabin was a leader of the hunters, but he also knew when to stop and say enough, Fisher said.

"Rabin had a vision and carried it out," Katz said. "It takes a very dedicated and strong-willed man to push through something like [the peace process] in the course of many years."

Rabin believed in making peace with his enemies, said Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences Philip S. Khoury. With friends, there is already peace.

All this was destroyed because of wanton hatred, Schwarz said. Jews can and should argue about their political views, but they should not accept murder as a political weapon, he said.

"The religious right wing is a significant and formidable minority," Khoury said. "They want to destroy the democratic state of Israel and create a theocracy state in which government and religion would be unified."

"The goal of the religious right-wing is thus more alarming," he said. "They are not only against Rabin's policies but also the secular government as a whole."

"The pain is tremendous," Schwarz said. Jews have lost a leader and lost hope because of a bullet that came from within.

It is especially a sad day for because Rabin was not killed in war, but was assassinated by his own people for his effort of peace, Fisher said.

"When I first heard the news on the radio, I hoped that the assassin was a Jewish person," said Jeremy M. Wolfe, visiting associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences. "It is a disaster regardless of who the assassin is, but if the assassin was an Arab, the consequences would have resulted in a blood bath."

Death may help peace process

"There is no path without pain," Schwarz said. "But the path of peace is preferred to that of war. And this path must be continued."

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is now acting as interim prime minister. Although Peres was actually the one who convinced Rabin to carry out the agreements with Palestinians and Jordan, Peres does not have the popularity and reputation of Rabin, Khoury said.

Peres would have some trouble to have the kind of support Rabin had, he said.

People believed in Rabin because Rabin himself made a transition from making war as a soldier to making peace as a prime minister, Khoury said. People trusted his judgments.

Rabin paid for his efforts toward peace with his life, and Jews must continue his dreams, Schwarz said.

"Rabin turned his life and his tragic death into a massive symbol of lasting peace," Khoury said. "And in the end, this may actually help push the peace processes along."

"I think this will force Israel to go through with the peace process. Now the political opponent of Rabin will be silenced out of respect for his memory," Katz said.

"Israel has lost its leader, it must not lose its way," Fisher said.

"I hope that the momentum for finding a workable peace will move forward," Rosenblum said. "And I hope that all the countries involved will continue this important task."

"I hope that this incident will take the wind out of the radical right-wing group," Wolfe said.