Israeli schoolgirls turn assassin into pin-up

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The Independent Online
"He had this smile, a sweet smile, very attractive," gushed the 17-year- old Israeli school girl from the town of Kiryat Gat. "His picture is hanging on my wall, and on my door I hung a picture which I clipped from the newspaper and enlarged. I love him."

Her idol, it turned out, is not Michael Jackson, but Yigal Amir, the 26-year-old law student who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, last year. Together with several of her school friends, she has set up a "Yigal Amir Fan Club" which writes to him in jail and collects clippings and pictures of him. Another one of three girls interviewed from the Gross religious school in Kiryat Gat, a town which lies 50 miles from Jerusalem, told Israeli television: "Yes, he's a murderer, but he did it with good intentions.

"He cared about his people and his country and the fact that Rabin didn't care." She said that many of her friends also greatly admired Amir.

It is all very alarming for the nearly 50 per cent of Israelis who voted for Shimon Peres, Mr Rabin's successor, who was defeated in the May election. It confirms their suspicion that it was not just the wilder extremes of the Israeli right which approved of the assassination. Eitan Haber, former head of Mr Rabin's office, said: "Right now in front of our eyes there are two peoples growing here, who have no cultural or social connection between them."

Demonstrators holding a vigil outside the Gross school in memory of Mr Rabin were abused by local residents who shouted: "Shulamit Aloni [a left- wing politician] is the next one. We will assassinate Shulamit Aloni." On one wall of the school was written: "Peres is next in line." Zevulan Hammer, the Education Minister, is to set up an inquiry into the "fan club", but is himself a leader of the far-right National Religious Party and unlikely to take stern measures against the school.