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. 

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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.