For me, in my apartment on the Upper West Side, it was still Shabbat when the phone rang. Hearts skipped beats, and we all jumped a little bit. In an apartment wherein everyone was observing Shabbat, the ringing of a phone was jarring, to say the least. It meant that somewhere, something was wrong.

In those days (“back in the mid-90s,” intoned the cantankerous Jewess), voice mail was not as ubiquitous–we had answering machines, tape recorders that broadcast the messages out loud as they came in. So, we waited for the beep, and heard the voice–ten years later, I don’t even remember whose it was–tell us that the Prime Minister of Israel had been shot. The details of his death, the assassin, the pre-mortem peace rally, “Shir Lashalom,” etc., would come later. But in that moment, Shabbat’s peace shattered as we absorbed the loss and tried to imagine the impact on the country that we all considered our home away from home. Someone turned on a radio or a TV or picked up a phone and called someone, or something, because, it seemed, this was knowledge that couldn’t wait.

A few hours previous and a few thousand miles away, IDF soldier Liel Liebovitz was in Tel Aviv, and he was hungry. He had been to a peace rally that night, and had left with a friend to grab some hummus, when a woman ran by and shouted that Rabin had been shot.

In 2005, ten years later, Liel, now a staff writer for the Jewish Week, reflects on his experience that night:

My friend and I, burly Israeli men barely in the autumn of our adolescence, soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces, took pride in being levelheaded and controlled. The woman, we thought, was clearly hysterical; after all, the scenario of Rabin being shot was as likely to us as an alien invasion. The prime minister, everybody knew, was well protected, surrounded by the secret service’s finest. So how could a gun-wielding assassin make it past all the security?

We started eating again, but an unease began to settle in our stomachs. On the off chance that the woman was right, we both thought without speaking, we needed to get going. We paid the bill and left.

Our next destination was a natural choice. We both had witnessed enough suicide bombings before our 20th birthday to be thoroughly acquainted with Tel Aviv’s hospital system, to know just where an injured person would be taken in an emergency. We walked, briskly and silently, to Ichilov, a nearby hospital on a broad, leafy boulevard. We were not surprised to discover dozens of people, many familiar faces from the rally, standing there, dazed and confused.

It was already past 11 p.m., yet no one gathered in front of the hospital wanted to leave. There was comfort in being there, the mute comfort of crowds, promising little but a shoulder to rub against or a ready ear. Some people talked, exchanging madcap theories in frantic voices. Others stood by quietly. No one had any clue what had happened.

One glance at Eytan Haber’s face, however, was more than anyone needed.

Rabin’s spokesman and assistant stepped out of the hospital with a look on his face that I will never forget, a look I have never since seen on anyone’s face. It was an odd concoction of fear, pain and detachment, as if Haber the government official was trying to remain collected while Haber the man, Rabin’s longtime friend, was imploding.

“The government of Israel,” he read aloud from a piece of paper, “announces with astonishment and deep sorrow the death of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, who was murdered by an assassin tonight in Tel Aviv.”

For the rest of the article, click here. And may our future songs all be songs of peace.

About the author

Esther Kustanowitz

For more posts by Esther, see EstherK.com, MyUrbanKvetch.com and JDatersAnonymous.com.


  • I wish we knew the truth behind Rabin’s death. I believe beyond a doubt that the official version is a big lie. There are just too many holes in the ‘lone assasin’ theory.

  • It was my freshman year of college. I poured my grief into a poem, which got printed in the next Koach newsletter…where they cut off the last line. Odd, the things we remember…

  • I remember that I was in third grade when Rabin was shot. We had a school assembly and later that day we all wrote an entry about it in our English diaries. Its funny that I still have the piece of paper with that entry and I read it on the anniversary. I really didn’t understand at all what had happened or what it would mean for Israel. I basically just resaid the little I had been told about it. But it seems like it happened so long ago, despite the equally as strong feeling that it just happened recently.

  • I was in high school. I remeber going to babysit and the guy picked me up and told me…I was in shock, any hope for peace was lost in that moment. I didn’t know how the country would recover. It’s 10 years later and I still don’t have an aswer.

  • There was a memorial in the city this week…at Hunter College! At which Sharon was present. At Hunter. And none of us got to meet him.

  • I remember watching the TV – and hearing the live announcement that Rabin suffered wounds to the chest… the story being reported was changed by the morning news. Rabin’s wounds shifted to his back.

    The news kept retelling the new story – how the bullets shattered Rabin’s spine – as they showed clips of Rabin walking to his car, standing upright and turning towards the source of the shots – motions that people with shattered vertebrae don’t make.

    My wife and I turned to each other for confirmation – yes, last night they DID say something different…

    I’m not very big on conspiracy theories, but I would like to know the truth of that evening.

  • The truth of that evening is that Yigal Amir, a fucking crazed right wing loonie, took a gun and shot Rabin from a very close distance.



  • Today’s Yediot (or is it Ma’ariv?) has a front-page photo of Rabin’s shirt. There are 3 bullet holes instead of 2.

    The Rabin family itself has requested investigations, and is unhappy with the government commission’s omissions.

    “Commissions omissions” – say *that* 3 times fast!

  • And Amir’s family, while sleazily trying to get him out of jail, admits unequivocally that he killed Rabin. Why do they think Amir deserves to be let out? Is it because there were two or three bullet holes or is it because they claim Rabin was a criminal and killing criminals deserves a lighter sentence than killing non-criminals?

  • The latest fodder for talk.

    The video of the shooting re-surfaces after ten years.
    click here to see the A7 article and the video.