Kahane funeral a time for grief, violence

November 08, 1990|By Michael Kelly | Michael Kelly,Special to The Sun

JERUSALEM -- Rabbi Meir Kahane was buried here yesterday in a five-hour funeral marked by eulogies calling for revenge and by street violence against Arabs, police and journalists.

The killing of the 58-year-old rabbi by an Egyptian-born gunman Monday night in New York is feared here as a possible trigger for a new round of the Arab-Jewish street violence that has become a fact of life since Palestinians living under Israel's rule in occupied territories intensified their rebellion three years ago.

Shortly after news of Rabbi Kahane's death reached Israel, a gunman suspected of being Jewish killed two elderly Arabs, and both Israeli Arab politicians and Palestinian leaders have taken extra security measures against feared reprisals.

Many Palestinian Arabs stayed away from the Jewish part of Jerusalem yesterday, but the rabbi's followers, who have promised to drown their enemies in "a river of blood," took their measure against the few they found.

The Israeli government, in its only official reaction to Rabbi Kahane's killing, warned his followers against violence and established heavy security measures at potential flash points.

According to police and eyewitnesses, groups of Kahane supporters broke away from the three-mile, three-hour funeral march to engage in attacks that injured at least four Arabs, one seriously, and two policemen, one seriously. One group of about 100 beat and stabbed an Arab gas station attendant and burned his Koran; another group found an Arab near the cemetery and beat and stoned him unconscious.

Others rampaged through a shopping area, smashing the windows of stores suspected of employing Arabs, while still more threw stones at passing cars believed to be driven by Arabs.

Several hundred Kahane followers chased a handful of photographers several blocks, taunting and hitting them from behind. After the journalists took refuge in the state television building, the mob attempted a weak assault of the building, throwing stones that sent one mounted policeman to the hospital with a head wound.

The violence began in the early evening and continued. After the burial in Givat Shaul cemetery, at least one supporter was heard exhorting the thousands gathered in the dark among the tombstones to go to the Moslem Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City and beat up Arabs, but police reportedly stopped the busload of Jews heading to that task.

Speaker after speaker at the outdoor afternoon funeral held at the Talmudic school that Rabbi Kahane founded in a poor Jerusalem neighborhood sounded the same ominous note. "God will avenge his blood and we will avenge his death," cried one eulogizer, his voice breaking in sobs. "This is the time to avenge the blood of any Jew that has been murdered."

The funeral, attended by thousands packed shoulder to shoulder in a rocky dirt backyard, was attended mostly by people who appeared to be neither rich nor famous, in keeping with Rabbi Kahane's political career. The political mainstream of Israel viewed the rabbi, with his strident campaign to expel all 2.5 million Arabs from Israeli-controlled land, as an extremist and a racist.

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