Israeli voters reacted to bombs, Wiesenthal dean says in S.F.

Israeli voters were not rejecting slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's legacy, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's head said last week.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Los Angeles center, believes Israelis instead were asserting their right to feel reasonably safe from terrorist attacks on the nation's buses.

"Many Israelis felt they had to penalize the government," said Hier, who spoke on Thursday of last week in San Francisco at the American Jewish Press Association's annual conference.

Hier wouldn't reveal whether he supported Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu or Labor's Shimon Peres. American Jews should offer only their support of every elected Israeli government, he said.

But Hier did offer his advice to both the political and spiritual leaders of the Jewish state.

Jews gave the world monotheism, he said, but today Israel is the only democratic country with leaders who have no attachment to religion. No photos exist of an Israeli prime minister reciting the Shmona Esreh (18 Benedictions), Hier asserted, because such a recitation has never occurred.

An Israeli prime minister would not be caught in a synagogue, he said, yet President Clinton attended Rosh Hashanah services last fall.

On the other hand, Hier said, religion is supposed to inspire ethics and morality. So, he asked, what does it mean when Israel's rabbis boycott the funeral of their murdered head of state?

"The question there," he said, "is better than the answer."