Memorial Service Recalls Rabin

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

Despite cloudy skies and a chilling wind, about 200 members and guests of the Boston College community paid respect to slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at a Nov. 8 memorial service on O'Neill Plaza.

The service featured solemn tributes from University President J. Donald Monan, SJ, and several faculty and administrators, as well as Catholic and Jewish prayers and a performance of "Shir Ha-Shalom: A Song for Peace" - the song Rabin had sung at a Tel Aviv rally minutes before he was assassinated on Nov. 4. Asst. Prof. Rabbi Ruth Langer (Theology) led a service for Rabin, along with Cantor Louise Treitman of Temple Beth David in Westwood and Jeremy Lipman, '99, president of the Boston College Jewish Students Association. University Chaplain Richard Cleary, SJ, served as master of ceremonies.

The speakers praised Rabin's transformation from soldier to peace-maker and his courage in pursuing an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and expressed confidence his work would not be in vain.

"If love and admiration are the measure of our fulfillment, and loss of a loved one our deepest vulnerability, that loss is also our greatest challenge," Fr. Monan said. "The loss of Yitzhak Rabin is a challenge to the oneness of our world, a challenge to peace everywhere. But the oneness of our world is inevitable, the power of peace irresistible - because in rising to the challenge, we will make them so."

Fr. Monan said it was appropriate for Boston College to join in the mourning for Rabin, in an age where "our world is one and that its many elements are daily more interdependent upon each other. Devastating hunger in Rwanda impoverishes us all. Massive indignities in Bosnia wound the human person itself. If peace cannot be pursued in one part of the world, peace is not secure anywhere."

Law School Dean Aviam Soifer recalled how as a student he had met Rabin, then the Israeli ambassador to the US, and had been impressed by his intractability. But Rabin proved to be a visionary peace maker as well as a gallant warrior, Soifer said, and showed a willingness to have faith in his "fellow flawed human beings."

Soifer said the actions of the confessed killer Yigal Amir were horrible enough, especially his claim that "he acted when God spoke to him and through him." There is and must be "a chasm," he said, "between faith and this type of true belief."

But Soifer said he was also disturbed by the fact Amir had been a law student, "among Israel's best and brightest, studying the crucial role of law in settling disputes peacefully, who apparently put aside all his legal training to try simply to blow away what he found intolerable."

Part-time faculty member Raymond Helmick, SJ (Theology), who corresponded frequently with Rabin [see related story], recalled how he had written Rabin at the time of the 1993 accord with the Palestinian Liberation Organization and told him he had joined a select group of Israelis, including the first prime minister David Ben-Gurion.

"It is Rabin who has ensured [Israel's] lasting future," Fr. Helmick said. "It is in the people he led to a new insight and courage on their road to peace, that we will continue to see that light to guide the nations."

Assoc. Prof. Paul Schervish (Sociology) noted that there is a spiritual context to the word "election" which differs greatly from its meaning in politics, Rabin's ultimate calling. In the former, he said, election means a "social-psychological turning point by which one converts from one strategy of life to another." Rabin, along with myriad citizens of the Middle East, made their election to "abandon the moral identity of opposition" and seek reconciliation.

"I wish to extend both my condolences and respect to all those here in the US and especially at Boston College," Schervish said, "who also made that spiritual election to view the enemy in new ways - ways that transformed their sentiments and began healing the Holy Land."

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