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‘Rabin’s Melody Can’t Be Silenced’: Bewildered Youth Mourn Leader

November 7, 1995

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Hesitant steps checked youthful energy. Red, puffy eyes belied smooth skin.

Young Israelis, predominant among the nearly 1 million mourners who edged past Yitzhak Rabin’s coffin, seemed struck old by his assassination. They spoke in incredulous tones of the prime minister’s death _ and of their fear for the future.

``I’m in shock,″ said Ran Etzion, who joined other 11th graders from Jerusalem’s Beit Hahinuch school on Monday to see Rabin’s coffin lying in state at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. ``We’re all in shock.″

Rabin was an unlikely hero for young people. He was 73, a phlegmatic old soldier who spoke in a 1940s Hebrew that sent many young Israelis running for their dictionaries.

But it was Rabin’s peacemaking _ the activity that earned him three assassin’s bullets _ that attracted large numbers of youthful followers.

``He had a vision of peace,″ Etzion said. ``We should continue in that direction.″

The prospect of life without several years in the army is attractive for many Israeli teen-agers, who envy their overseas peers the immediate transition from high school to college and employment.

It was teen-agers from Jerusalem high schools who set up a vigil at Rabin’s Jerusalem residence, scattering the sidewalk with long-burning Jewish memorial candles.

One poster quoted the phrase Rabin often used when telling the country that, despite Muslim militant bombings, the peace process would continue: ``This melody can’t be silenced.″

``Something is Screwed Up,″ read another, quoting a recent pop song.

``We were proud to be a democratic country, people who respected other opinions,″ said Ravit Asher, 14, who came to Rabin’s house with her friends to read out poems of peace.

``And now someone got up and shot him,″ chimed in her friend, Jasmine Shoham.

``Now we fear one another,″ said a third, Liron Yakhin.

Newfound fear tainted the letters of children who wrote to the Yediot Ahronot newspaper.

``I pulled the covers over myself and cried and cried,″ wrote a fifth grader identified only as Hila. ``I couldn’t stop the tears.″

Talman Galadoub, a 7-year-old pupil from Tel Aviv’s Gavrieli School, was angry. ``Instead of killing, one should sit down and talk,″ he wrote. ``What do we have a mouth for?″

Such feelings were addressed by psychologists who spent Monday morning leading pupils across the country in discussion over Rabin’s death.

There were reports of some students cheering the assassination and burning Rabin death notices. Asaf Horesh, 17, said those students were not representative.

``They’re morons _ ill-bred morons,″ Horesh said. ``Most of my right-wing friends are in shock and even reassessing their opinions in light of this.″

Horesh said he believed Israel would come out stronger. In his case, the assassination strengthened his resolve to join an elite combat unit.

``Now I want to do it not just for the prestige, but for Rabin and the country he fought for,″ Horesh said. ``Because of him, I may not have to. He opened the way to peace.″

Ettie, a soldier from Tel Aviv strolling from vigil to vigil through Jerusalem’s sun-drenched streets, was less optimistic.

``Until two days ago, we thought that all we had to fight was the enemy,″ said Ettie, prevented by military protocol from giving her full name. ``Now we have met the enemy, and he is among us.″