Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel

W.W. Norton & Company  2015


Assassinations may take place in a single moment, but history is changed over a period of time. In Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel, Dan Ephron traces the parallel stories of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and his assassin, Yigal Amir, for the two years leading up to the brutal murder in 1995. Ephron examines the two men’s thoughts and actions, placing them within the context of the vitriolic anti-government rhetoric of the Israeli religious right.

A seasoned journalist who served in the prestigious post of Jerusalem bureau chief for Newsweek, Ephron is able to identify and analyze the significance of the catastrophic event and bring the peacemaking process into sharp focus. We are shown how the assassination, with its far-reaching political repercussions, formed a turning point for the Promised Land, derailing the delicate peace process that had been in place.

Ephron uncovered court records, probed confessional materials, conducted family interviews, and dissected confidential police reports in order to piece together his story, which is as absorbing as a political thriller. The book narrows in on the rally during which Rabin was killed, and then shifts its focus to the subsequent murder trial.

The reader comes to understand Amir, a 25-year-old law student who became involved with Jewish extremists and believed he was saving Israel by assassinating its prime minister. We learn that the agency assigned to keep Rabin safe blundered over and over again in its security duties. Ephron dispassionately observes the radicals on both sides who undermined the peace process. But as the narrative progresses, it is impossible not to fall under the thrall of Rabin, who opened his heart to embrace PLO leader Yasser Arafat and tried with all his strength and energy to lead the way to understanding and acceptance.

Killing a King takes us from the past into the present by dissecting the relationship between current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama in light of Rabin's assassination. In the well-paced narrative, Ephron interprets the lessons learned from the subsequent dissolution of the peace talks and speculates about how the Middle East would look today if Rabin had not been murdered.

Index, notes, photos.


Read an excerpt from the book here.

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Meet Sami Rohr Prize Finalist Dan Ephron

Jewish Book Council is proud to introduce readers to the five emerging nonfiction authors named as finalists for the 2016 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. Today, we invite you to learn more about Dan Ephron and his book, Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel, an account tracing the parallel stories of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and his assassin, Yigal Amir, for the two years leading up to the brutal murder in 1995.

A warm congratulations to Dan and the other four finalists: Lisa Moses Leff, Aviya Kushner, Adam D. Mendelsohn, and Yehudah Mirsky. Be sure to check back soon to see which of these authors will be taking home the $100,000 prize!

What are some of the most challenging things about writing nonfiction?

The “non” part of nonfiction, mainly: laying out the facts accurately and fairly without disrupting the narrative flow. It's tricky.

What or who has been your inspiration for writing nonfiction?

I was reading Erik Larson’s excellent In the Garden of Beasts while writing Killing a King. He’s great at not calling attention to his own writing. It allowed me to lose myself in the story.

Who is your intended audience?

My father-in-law was one of the readers I had mind. He reads a lot, mostly not about the Middle East. I wanted Killing a King to engage people who didn’t necessarily share my obsession with the region. But I also wanted readers familiar with the details of the Rabin assassination to be drawn in and understand something new.

Are you working on anything new right now?

I’m hunting for a new book idea. If you have one, please meet me at the bar in 10 minutes.

What are you reading now?

Alistair Horne’s A Savage War of Peace, about the Algerian battle for independence. The author toggles back and forth between narrative detail and historical sweep. It’s very effective.

If you had to list your top five favorite books…

I wouldn’t swear they’re my all-time favorites. But here are five good books I’ve read lately:
A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre
Thirteen Days in September by Lawrence Wright
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Ghettoside by Jill Leovy
Manson by Jeff Guinn

When did you decide to be a writer? Where were you?

I decided in college to be a journalist. The writerly ambitions came later.

What is the mountaintop for you—how do you define success?

I think of success as the privilege to write about things that interest me while not having to resort to living in my parents’ basement.

How do you write—what is your private modus operandi? What talismans, rituals, props do you use to assist you?

I have no routines or rituals, though I did have a daily word count I kept to while writing the book. Deadlines motivate me. Also, fear of failure.

What do you want readers to get out of your book?

The feeling that it ended too quickly.

Dan Ephron has served as the Jerusalem bureau chief for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. He now lives in New York City.

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