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And if anyone asks, "What are these wounds on your chest?," the answer will be, "The wounds I received in the house of my friends." --Zechariah 13:6

SHIR HA-SHALOM. THE SONG OF Peace. In a rare moment of elation for the dour leader, Yitzhak Rabin tucked a leaflet with the lyrics to Shir Ha-Shalom into his breast pocket and sang along with the 100,000 people who had gathered to celebrate peace and support him last Saturday evening on Kings of Israel Square in the heart of Tel Aviv. Such moments came all too infrequently to the embattled Premier these days, when Arab and Jewish extremists, equally intent on murdering the tenuous accords between Israel and the Palestinians, held center stage. But this starlit night, the message was different. The 73-year-old Prime Minister of Israel exhorted the crowd to go forward down the road to which he had committed Israel in September 1993. "There are enemies of the peace process, and they try to hurt us," he said. "But violence undermines democracy and must be denounced and isolated."

Rabin seemed to be unusually buoyed by the outpouring of support and affection coming from the largest assembly the square had ever seen. Yet watchers could not shake off all their fears. During the rally one man, Meir Doron, walked up to a journalist and asked, "Don't you think Rabin ought to be wearing a flak jacket in a situation like this?" The journalist shrugged, and Doron made his way over to Leah Rabin, the Prime Minister's wife, and asked her if she thought her husband was safe. She looked sharply at him, put her finger to her lips and said, "Shhh. Don't say such things. I don't believe anyone is capable of doing anything like that."

When the rally ended, Rabin walked off the podium and down a stairway leading to a sheltered area where an armored Cadillac awaited him. Just as the Prime Minister was stepping into the limousine, at 9:40 p.m., a man came up behind him with a .22-cal. pistol in his hand. The assassin, a 25-year-old Jewish militant named Yigal Amir, fired two shots from less than three meters away. The hollow-point bullets smashed into Rabin, who had always refused to wear a bulletproof vest. One ruptured his spleen; the other severed major arteries in his chest and shattered his spinal cord, drenching the leaflet in his pocket, the Song of Peace, in blood.

As a phalanx of security personnel grabbed Amir and slammed him up against the wall of an adjacent shopping center, another set of bodyguards cradled the stricken leader into the car, then rushed him to nearby Ichilov Hospital. When Rabin arrived, he had no pulse and no blood pressure; after heroic efforts to stop the massive bleeding, his doctors acknowledged failure. At 11:15 p.m., Eitan Haber, the Prime Minister's chief of staff, emerged from the hospital to scream for all the world to hear: "Rabin is dead!"

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