Excerpted from Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel by Dan Ephron.
Yitzhak Rabin woke up before seven the morning of November 4, 1995, with an eye infection. He had plans to play tennis, hold several work meetings at his north Tel Aviv apartment, and then attend a peace rally that night at Kings of Israel Square. But the infection, which made his eye swollen and bloodshot, gave him a chance to reassess. Rabin felt ambivalent about the rally; it seemed to him like the kind of event some Bolshevik regime might organize, busing in paid apparatchiks and having them wave banners approved by the Party. He agreed to it mostly because his political opponents, with a few large and rowdy protests, had managed to create the impression that most of the country opposed his now second peace deal with Yasser Arafat. The demonstrators had held up doctored images showing Rabin draped in a kaffiyeh — the checkered black-and-white scarf worn by Arafat — and worse, Rabin in a Nazi uniform. But the prime minister feared that few people would show up at the square. Instead of refuting the perception of his political weakness, the rally could end up reinforcing it. Rabin himself wasn’t exactly sure whether it was just a perception or the hard reality now.
He moved to the den, picked up the phone, and called off his tennis match. At seventy-three, Rabin still played several sets every Saturday, walking to a country club in the neighborhood and puffing on Parliament Longs between the games. He planned to phone Shlomo Lahat next, the former mayor of Tel Aviv and the organizer of the rally that night. The two had served together in the army and overlapped as members of the general staff — the Israeli equivalent of the joint chiefs. But before he dialed, Leah, Rabin’s wife of forty-seven years, called to him from elsewhere in the apartment, saying she’d tracked down an ophthalmologist who was now on the way. For the prime minister, of course he would make a house call on the Jewish Sabbath. And unless the doctor discovered something serious, Rabin would have no excuse but to attend the rally.
Around the same time, a few miles north, Yigal Amir was getting out of bed at his parents’ home in Herzliya. A twenty-five-year-old law student, short and handsome, Amir also had plans for that Saturday. He would pray at the Orthodox synagogue in the neighborhood, eat lunch with his parents and brothers and sisters — eight children in all — and head to Tel Aviv in the evening. Amir put on jeans and a dark-colored T‑shirt. He lifted his 9mm Beretta from the nightstand next to his bed and tucked it in the back of his pants — he took the gun everywhere. His older brother, Hagai, with whom he shared a room, was a step behind him. Hagai palmed a velvet bag containing his tallit — the shawl with knotted fringes that religiously observant Jews wrap themselves in during prayers every day — and the two stepped out onto the pavement.
From Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel by Dan Ephron. Reprinted with permission from W. W. Norton & Company.
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Dan Ephron has served as the Jerusalem bureau chief for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. He now lives in New York City.