Killer's campus cancels classes

November 10, 1995

Classes were cancelled this week at Israel's Bar Ilan University, the university attended by the student who shot prime minister Itzhak Rabin this week.

Speaking shortly after the assassination, the president of Bar Ilan, Shlomo Ekstein, expressed his shock that a university student could carry out such an act. "We try to educate people to build bridges between different points of view. That a student of ours could do a thing like this is shocking. I am appalled."

The dean of the faculty of law at Bar Ilan, Yedidia Stern, cancelled two days' classes to enable staff and students to reflect on and discuss the tragedy. "Bar Ilan University and the faculty of law teach tolerance," said Professor Stern, "and this man, one of our own, has carried out the most awful act that can be imagined."

Yigal Amir, a third-year law and computing student, approached the prime minister as he was leaving a peace rally and fired three shots from close range. Mr Rabin, who has voiced his concern about an increasing culture of violence in Israeli society several times in recent months, was hit twice in the chest and despite being rushed to a nearby hospital was declared dead within two hours.

Bar Ilan, just outside Jerusalem, is Israel's most religious university. It encourages an emphasis on Jewish culture and is a popular choice among traditionalist elements of the community.

Because of this it is often considered Israel's most right-wing campus. However, as is the case at all of Israel's universities, Bar Ilan seeks to keep political activity off the campus and has even developed a distinguished reputation as a centre for the study of mediation and conflict resolution.

Following the killing, which has deeply shocked and alarmed all Israelis, leaders on both sides of the political spectrum have called for an end to the aggressive and vicious personal attacks that have come to characterise Israeli politics and public debate in recent months.

Despite the best efforts of university administrators, much of this debate and its associated paraphernalia finds its way into the halls and corridors. For example, posters recently displayed at Bar Ilan and other institutes offered a bounty for the murder of the prime minister and portrayed him as an SS officer.

Amir, from an observant religious family and one of eight children, was known to the police as a right-wing activist who had attended demonstrations against the peace policy.

He enrolled at the university after army service as a conscript. Reports after the shooting suggest that Amir had links with right-wing anti-Arab parties, although the leadership of one denied he was a member.

Described by his university friends as a calm, quiet, hard-working student who spent long hours studying alone in the library, the assassin showed no remorse.

Upon being told that Mr Rabin was dead, Amir expressed satisfaction, saying that he had intended to kill him twice before but had been thwarted by changes in his schedule and by heavy security. Asked about his motives, Amir was quoted as saying that he acted alone on the orders of God. He has made no attempt to deny his role in the assassination and has signed a five-page confession.

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