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570: The Night In Question

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Prologue

Ira Glass

In two weeks, it's going to be the 20th anniversary of the assassination of the Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin. This was a shocking event in Israel-- basically, their Kennedy assassination. Rabin had been in the middle of working through a peace deal with the Palestinians. You may remember a famous picture of him and Yasser Arafat outside the White House, with President Clinton kind of awkwardly nudging them both to shake hands.

Two brothers were convicted in the murder-- Israelis. Jews. Religious Jews. The one who pulled the trigger is still in prison, but the other got out a few years ago. His name's Hagai. Hagai and his brother are still unapologetic about what they did. They killed the prime minister because they didn't like his peace deal.

Hagai Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Ira Glass

"We wanted to do it," he's saying. "Didn't happen by accident."

Hagai Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Ira Glass

"We did it to save Jews, to stop this process that was killing Jews." Hagai talked to one of our producers, Nancy Updike, and to another journalist, Dan Ephron, who's also her husband. He's the former Jerusalem bureau chief for Newsweek. They have both reported in Israel for years. Dan and Nancy now join me in studio. Hi, guys.

Nancy Updike

Hello.

Dan Ephron

Hi, Ira.

Ira Glass

So, where was this interview?

Dan Ephron

We visited him at his house, the one he grew up in. It's a small house on a quiet street. He's back there living at home with his parents. It's the same house where Hagai and his brother spent hours together discussing the murder, plotting it in their room up on the second floor.

Nancy Updike

And we got there and we asked him to give us a tour and we ended up around back, in the backyard. And Dan-- I call him Danny-- speaks Hebrew, so he was translating. We're all talking quietly. It's late at night.

Hagai Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

This is where he hid some of the ammunition that night, before the police came.

So, the ammunition he's talking about-- Hagai and his brother had stockpiled weapons before the assassination. Hagai made some of the munitions himself. He's a tinkerer.

Ira Glass

Wow.

Dan Ephron

Yeah. And he was completely open about it. He was kind of proud about it. And he had given us this tour, and as he did, he said, "Look, I hid the weapons from the police over here in the chicken coop, in a bag."

Hagai Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

"It was a bag. I had built little homemade grenades."

Hagai Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

"Part of the silencer that I was working on."

Nancy Updike

How long does it take to make a grenade?

Hagai Amir

Ah. [SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

"You have to think a lot before you make it."

Hagai Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

Uh-huh.

Hagai Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

"You can make one in an hour, but you have to plan it."

Nancy Updike

Hagai took us over to a little prefab shed in a corner of the backyard. It was full of tools and boxes of bolts and wing nuts and all that. And this is the shed where he'd spent months experimenting with and perfecting a kind of bullet that was found in his brother's gun the night of the murder.

Nancy Updike

This is the exact bullet mold that you used?

Hagai Amir

Ken.

Ira Glass

OK, so "ken" means "yes" in Hebrew. That's one of the few Hebrew words I remember from Hebrew school.

Dan Ephron

Right, right. And he's showing us this bar of metal that can fit a bunch of bullets in it, and then a second bar fits on top of it and it kind of clamps on top.

Hagai Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

He used all this gear to drill into these bullets and drop a ball bearing inside.

Nancy Updike

And I asked Hagai, "What's the ball bearing for?" And he said, "Ah, that was our project. That was our innovation."

Hagai Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

The ball bearing-- the bullet-- so the idea was, that this would penetrate a vest.

Nancy Updike

A bulletpoof vest.

Dan Ephron

A bulletproof vest. And the way it does it is that the bullet itself would lodge in the vest, but the ball bearing would continue through it. And it was-- it's hard enough and deadly enough to kill-- just the ball bearing, once it penetrated, to kill him.

Nancy Updike

I mean, so-- I mean, did you-- did you make this mold in order to make the bullets for that purpose, to shoot Rabin?

Hagai Amir

Um. [SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

"I think you could say yes. The answer is yes."

So, this was the exact equipment he used to modify the bullets to kill the Prime Minister, and he's happy to show it to us. And because he and his brother both had this attitude-- they were both proud of what they'd done-- as a murder case, this assassination was open and shut. The shooter, Hagai's brother, his name is Yigal Amir. He was grabbed right on the spot. The bullets matched his gun. There were several witnesses within a few feet of the shooter when he pulled the trigger. There was an amateur film that captured key parts of the scene. The killer confessed immediately, in detail. He reenacted the incident with police-- that's on video too. And he's never expressed remorse. He's never recanted any part of his confession.

Ira Glass

OK, but-- I can feel the "but" that you're about to say.

Dan Ephron

Right. There is a "but." So, in spite of all this, in spite of all the evidence, lots of people don't believe it's true. They don't believe that Yigal Amir and his brother killed Rabin.

Israeli Man 1

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

That's enough? He says, "Yigal Amir did not murder Rabin." I said, "Who did?" He said the Shabak did.

Nancy Updike

The Shabak is like the Israeli equivalent of the FBI, plus they have a bodyguard division. So it's sort of a combination of the FBI and the Secret Service.

Ira Glass

So even though there's all this evidence that could not seem, like, more clear-- there's witnesses, there's video, there's a confession-- there are conspiracy theories?

Nancy Updike

Yeah. And they're popular. These are just random people on the street in Jerusalem one night this past summer.

Israeli Man 2

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

So he says that it was the Shabak that killed Rabin. He knows that because the bullets were in the front and Yigal Amir had shot from behind.

Israeli Woman

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

OK, so what she's saying is, "I'm absolutely not sure that Amir actually killed Rabin. There were all kinds of machinations, all kinds of intrigue going on at the time, and maybe the state was involved."

So, according to polls, fully a third of Israelis doubt that Yigal Amir pulled the trigger. They think there was a conspiracy or a major cover up. Among Israelis who identify as right wing, the doubters number at least 50%.

Ira Glass

50? Five-oh?

Nancy Updike

50, yeah. It's a big number.

Dan Ephron

And I've been researching and reporting on the assassination for several years now. And as I got deeper, I felt like I was in this weird loop where, on the one hand, all the documents I had read and all the people who were there that I spoke to-- police investigators, bodyguards, witnesses-- all that pointed to the fact that Yigal Amir killed the prime minister. And then alongside that, sometimes in interviews or conversations with Israelis, I'd get this look like, "You really believe that?" And I just wanted to understand why. Why are the conspiracy theories plausible to so much of the country?

Nancy Updike

And the fact that this assassination is seen so differently by different people in Israel has real implications for politics there today, right now.

Ira Glass

Well, from WBEZ it's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. We hear so much about Israel here in our country, and I should say, over the months that we have worked on today's program, it has made me understand things about Israel that I never understood before. Rabin's death is a very helpful prism to understand Israel and Israelis today-- even the news these last few weeks, this new round of violence. Rabin was assassinated in the middle of a peace deal that the United States had thrown all of its weight behind. Every president since then has tried and failed to broker peace. Today on our program, we're telling the story of what happened that night that Rabin was killed and we're telling the story of how Israelis see that moment today and what that tells us about Israel, Israeli politics, and the chances for peace. Stay with us.

Act One: The Night

Ira Glass

And with that, I hand things over to Nancy and Dan.

Dan Ephron

Here's what happened the night of the assassination. Rabin was speaking at a political rally, and I actually attended that rally. I was a young reporter covering the event. Later, I covered the murder trial. And the rally was huge-- there were speeches and songs. More than 100,000 people showed up. They filled the main plaza in Tel Aviv and packed the side streets. Most of them were left wing or center left, like Rabin. He was the head of the Labor Party.

So the slogan of the rally was, "Yes to peace, no to violence." And turnout was important, because the point of the rally had been to gauge how much support Rabin had for the peace deals he was pursuing with the Palestinians-- they're called the Oslo Accords. And here's what Oslo called for-- for Israel to gradually withdraw from parts of the West Bank and Gaza so that Palestinians could govern themselves.

And a lot of right-wing Israelis saw Oslo as a terrible thing, as a security threat, and, because it involved giving back land God promised to the Jews, a betrayal of Judaism. They'd been protesting against Oslo and against the Rabin government for months. There was even a small right-wing counterdemonstration that night held near the rally. One of the people at the counterdemo-- and this is in a story I wrote that night-- one of them held up a sign that said, "A rope for the traitors."

I've read through dozens of police reports filed on the night of the murder. One that caught my eye was written by Chief Superintendent Moti Naftali. He helped draw up the security plan for the rally, along with the Israeli equivalent of the FBI, the Shabak.

Moti Naftali

Here were the Shabak.

Nancy Updike

Over here on the left?

Moti Naftali

On the left. And we were here.

Nancy Updike

A few months ago, we went with Moti up onto the stage where Rabin stood. It looks out over the plaza where the rally was held. Moti was also on stage the night of the assassination. There was a police command center off to one side. He's pointing out where that was, where other people were. Moti is a pipe smoker, the only one I've ever met in Israel. He also speaks German-- he'll throw in a word of that sometimes. And today is the first time he's come up here since that night 20 years ago. He's not a sentimental man.

Moti Naftali

You know, it's like when I go into my high school. I look ahead. I look forward.

Nancy Updike

The mission for law enforcement that evening of the rally was to maintain order and, of course, to protect the prime minister. Moti remembers preparing for just one scenario.

Moti Naftali

That the Palestinians, they will commit a terror operation. Nobody in all the work before-- nobody talked about an Israeli or a Jewish assassin. When it was finished, from here, I called my wife and I said, [GERMAN] "Thank God, it's finished."

Nancy Updike

"Thank God," in German. Yeah.

Moti Naftali

[HEBREW] "Nothing happened."

Dan Ephron

It went fine.

Nancy Updike

The rally went fine. It ended, Rabin left the stage, and then after Moti called his wife--

Moti Naftali

I heard people running and a noise. And I run with them as well.

Dan Ephron

Was it clear that these were shots?

Moti Naftali

No, no.

Nancy Updike

What Moti heard but didn't see was captured on amateur video. There's no TV news footage of the assassination because the rally was over-- the news was over. This moment when the shooting happened was a nothing moment. Just the prime minister, Rabin, walking down the stairs behind the stage and back to his car.

In the amateur footage-- we found this copy on YouTube-- we see Rabin's car off to the side with his driver, Menachem Damti, standing next to it. There's a small crowd at the bottom of the stairs as he comes down. People are applauding. They're mostly just a bunch of dark, human-sized shapes. Rabin is pretty easy to spot because he's in the middle and his glasses are glinting. And then one of the shapes who's been sitting off to the side stands up, walks through a few people till he's just behind Rabin, lifts his right arm, and there are flashes and the sound of three gunshots.

[GUNSHOTS]

The camera drops, seemingly in shock, and then recovers. All of this has happened only a few feet from the car that Rabin was about to get into. And we see Rabin's driver bend over Rabin and then jump into the driver's seat. The film ends there. Rabin, his bodyguard, and the driver speed off to the hospital. The assassin, Yigal Amir-- the brother of Hagai, who you heard from earlier-- is tackled and taken to police headquarters to be interrogated by Moti Naftali.

Dan Ephron

Moti was the first person to interrogate Yigal Amir in the hours after the assassination. This was a few blocks away at the Tel Aviv police headquarters.

Moti Naftali

He was in [HEBREW], we say in Hebrew. How you say in English?

Dan Ephron

Euphoria.

Moti Naftali

Euphoria. Because he had a mission and he did it.

Dan Ephron

There's video of Moti interrogating Amir. The sound quality is terrible in parts of the tape, but it's mesmerizing to watch.

Yigal Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Moti Naftali

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Yigal Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

Amir talks in small bites and he repeats himself, because Moti, sitting across the table from him, is writing down every word by hand. At one point, Amir stops what he's saying to make sure Moti is getting everything down. He says, "Did you write that down?"

Yigal Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Moti Naftali

Ken.

Dan Ephron

Remember, "ken," in Hebrew means "yes."

At the start of the interrogation, it's not clear yet that Rabin is dead. Moti is just focused on Amir. Who is this guy? Moti, like the rest of the police in the Shabak, is stunned by the fact that Amir is Jewish, an Israeli, not Palestinian. He finds out he's 25 years old. He's a law student, a devout Jew, and Amir, to him, is just baffling.

Moti Naftali

I see a guy, normal guy from a good family, student, and a murderer. I, I'm-- I dealed with murderer. They were-- they were criminal. He wasn't criminal. It's the first time that I dealed with the ideological criminal. I say he's a wet dream of every woman, that she will have such a guy for her daughter.

Dan Ephron

Sort of the men every woman wants for her son-in-law.

Moti Naftali

Yeah, yeah, yeah. He was educated, polite, good manners-- a murderer.

Dan Ephron

Amir in the video is calm. He's measured. There's no rambly, incoherent manifesto. He's not even raising his voice. He seems sane. He's just very smug. He says to Moti at one point, "Your questions are an insult to my intelligence."

Moti Naftali

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Yigal Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Moti Naftali

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

But Amir is happy to tell him everything. He'd been developing the idea of killing Rabin for two years. He used his own gun, a 9-millimeter Beretta. He'd loaded it with bullets from a fresh box before leaving the house, then he took bus number 247 from his home in Herzliya to the rally.

Amir said he'd read the Oslo Accords-- the complete version, not the summary that was in the newspapers-- and he felt it was his obligation to stop Rabin from going ahead with Oslo, his religious duty under Jewish laws known as "din rodef" and "din moser." He said he had to protect the land of Israel. At the rally, Amir told himself that if God wanted him to kill Rabin, he would give him an opportunity to do it, and the opportunity came.

Yigal Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

Moti-- you see this in the video-- he's losing patience. But he wants a full confession, so he remains polite.

Moti Naftali

One of my police came in and brought me a cup of tea in a kowc, white kowc. You know, this--

Dan Ephron

Styrofoam cup.

Moti Naftali

Yeah. And I told to him, "Would you also like a cup of tea?" He said yes and I told him, "Bring another one, please," and he brought him the cup of tea. And he says, "Don't you have any cookies?" And I told him, "Oh, you are-- you are pushing your luck."

I remember his reaction when I told him-- when I accused him. And I tell him, "I, me, Moti Naftali, accuse you that you shot the prime minister and you caused his death." And he was shocked to hear it. He said, "What? Did he die? Wow!" And he jumped, like your team make a goal.

Nancy Updike

Like your team scored a goal in a soccer game?

Moti Naftali

Yeah, yeah. And this moment, you want to come and punch him in the face, but you must be correct. You must sit down. Sit down. "Would you like a cup of tea?" "Let's make l'chaim," he said.

Nancy Updike

"Let's make a toast."

Moti Naftali

Let's make a toast. Yeah.

Nancy Updike

"L'chaim" means "To life!"

Moti Naftali

Yeah.

Nancy Updike

To make a toast to life.

Moti Naftali

Yeah, to life. To life that he took.

[CROWD CHANTING]

Reporter

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

This is the crowd outside the hospital where Rabin was taken after he was shot. It's from a radio report. I had left the rally before the shooting, along with other journalists, and I got a beeper message-- this was the 90s, a lot of beepers-- saying, "Shot fired near Rabin." So I turned around and ran. I really ran back to the square-- and then from the square to the hospital nearby. I saw this crowd and I heard these shouts. The crowd is furious. You can hear it. They're Rabin supporters and what they're chanting is "Bibi rotzeach," meaning "Bibi is a murderer."

Crowd

Bibi rotzeach!

Dan Ephron

Bibi-- and maybe you know this-- is the nickname for Benjamin Netanyahu. He's the Prime Minister of Israel today. At the time, he headed the right-wing opposition, the side opposed to Rabin and to the Oslo deal.

Nancy Updike

Israeli politics is always fierce. I once saw on TV a lawmaker in the Israeli parliament throw a glass of water into another parliament member's face. And in the months before the assassination, the rhetoric against Rabin had been relentless. There were posters with his face in the crosshairs of a gun. There were posters of him dressed as Yasser Arafat, the leader of the PLO, wearing a keffiyeh on his head. A poster of him dressed as a Nazi SS officer. People chanted "murderer" and "traitor" at rallies and outside Rabin's apartment in Tel Aviv. People chanted "Death to Rabin." Palestinian groups who opposed the Oslo accords had killed dozens of Israelis in suicide attacks since the start of the peace process and many Israelis blamed Rabin for those deaths. It was pure rage. The right was enraged at Oslo and at Rabin.

But the night of the assassination, it was the left that became enraged. The feeling was, one man pulled the trigger, but a much larger group bore the blame for stoking hatred and violence against Rabin. A left-wing slogan would emerge-- "We will not forgive and we will not forget."

When Rabin's chief of staff comes out of the hospital to make the announcement that the prime minister is dead, it takes him more than a minute of yelling at people to keep quiet before he can make himself heard.

Chief Of Staff

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Israeli Man

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Chief Of Staff

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Israeli Man

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Chief Of Staff

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

By now, the country's chief pathologist, Professor Yehuda Hiss, heads to the hospital to perform the autopsy.

Yehuda Hiss

Look, I was raised on the investigation into the death of President Kennedy.

Dan Ephron

"Into the death of President Kennedy." Hiss did some of his medical training in the United States at Case Western Reserve in the years after the Kennedy assassination, and he says the autopsy on Kennedy was discussed a lot-- mainly as a cautionary tale, as a lesson on what not to do when performing a postmortem. The autopsy became one more thing that stoked the conspiracy theories.

Yehuda Hiss

So I promised myself that it would never happen in Israel. That if there is some high-profile case I would be called to perform an autopsy, I will do the most accurate thing. And I tried to do it in the prime minister's case and said I don't want, you know, the same claims that the autopsy was not accurate, that there were no photographs, and so on. And they tried to do, you know, everything-- you know, regular things. To act regular.

Dan Ephron

"Regular" meant Hiss insisted on having both his assistants with him during the Rabin autopsy. One of them was a photographer. It also meant that Hiss described aloud every step he took, dictating it into a tape recorder. His assistant transcribed the notes later that morning.

Hiss found two bullets in Rabin, one in the lung and the other in the chest, and no exit wounds. The third bullet fired by Amir went through the arm of a bodyguard.

Yehuda Hiss

There was nothing mysterious, you know? There's nothing complicated.

Dan Ephron

The bullets that Hiss found inside Rabin were standard hollow points, not the ones Hagai had modified in his shed with the ball bearings after all. Those ended up at the bottom of his brother's magazine.

Dan Ephron

Do the conspiracy theorists contact you? Do they ever try to--

Yehuda Hiss

Yes. They call me and, "Do you know that we know that--" I say, "I have nothing to add." It's crazy. It's amazing what is happening. The Israeli believe that there was some kind of conspiracy regarding his death.

Hillel Weiss

We are asking the questions-- very, very simple questions.

Nancy Updike

This is Hillel Weiss. He's a political columnist and one of the early adopters and proselytizers of the conspiracy theories-- also a literature professor emeritus. He's in his 70s, he's got a white beard, very jolly. In the Rabin era, he was on TV a lot, and he's cheerful about why.

Hillel Weiss

When the television want to see a crazy one from the right wing, they call Hillel Weiss.

Nancy Updike

You.

Hillel Weiss

Yes. And I supply them the-- the goods.

Nancy Updike

He lives in the West Bank, in a settlement he helped found nearly 40 years ago. It's called Elkana. He also helped found something else-- a group that calls itself The Public Committee for the Reinvestigation of the Rabin Murder.

Hillel Weiss

Well, they think that Rabin himself and his party and all the people that were in the inside circle, they wanted to turn public opinion. Therefore, they make this fake event to defame the right wing.

Nancy Updike

This is the core of Hillel's theory. Rabin himself orchestrated what was supposed to be an attempt on his own life by the right. It was supposed to be a thwarted attempt. The event would create sympathy for Rabin and for Oslo and boost his approval ratings, and it would make the right look bad.

In the fake assassination, as Hillel lays it out, Yigal Amir is either a collaborator or a patsy, and what the country saw on video was Amir firing blanks, not real bullets. Rabin then pretended to fall and was helped into the car and driven away. But then in the car, somehow Rabin dies anyway. And here, the theories get hazy. It's not clear what happened in the car, but whatever happened, it wasn't part of the plan. Inside the car, that's when someone-- or some "they"-- takes charge.

Hillel Weiss

You ask me who are "they?" And you ask me if "they" are Shabak.

Nancy Updike

Shabak, again, Israel's FBI.

Hillel Weiss

I cannot give any precise answer. The major claim is that Rabin died from a shot to the chest, and not from his back.

Nancy Updike

Hillel has some thoughts about what might have led to that shot. Maybe there was a conspiracy within the conspiracy, or maybe Rabin just had a stroke in the car. Maybe it was as simple as that. Because even a stroke, if that's what happened, would have sabotaged the whole story the left was trying to sell. With a stroke, the left would get none of the political advantages of a thwarted assassination. Just a guy in a hospital bed who might not even be able to talk. The only way to salvage the story at that point would be to really kill Rabin-- to shoot him in the chest.

Hillel Weiss

They have no choice, because it destroys all the story.

Dan Ephron

So you're saying Rabin decided--

Hillel Weiss

It can be a possibility.

Dan Ephron

But one possibility-- or a possibility that might be the one that you believe in-- is that Rabin staged his own assassination--

Hillel Weiss

Yes, yes, yes.

Dan Ephron

In order to--

Hillel Weiss

Yes, I'm sure.

Dan Ephron

In order to improve his popularity and the popularity of the peace process.

Hillel Weiss

Yes, yes.

Dan Ephron

And then got into the car on his own.

Hillel Weiss

On his own feet.

Dan Ephron

And then maybe in the car, he had a stroke, you're saying?

Hillel Weiss

It can be. It can be. It can be that he had a stroke.

Dan Ephron

Where did the bullets come from?

Hillel Weiss

The simple idea is that someone killed him.

Nancy Updike

This was the push and pull of the conversation. Some parts of his theory Hillel would deliver in the most emphatic tone you can imagine. About other parts, he would say, "Maybe. I don't know. I'm just asking questions." It's a prerogative of conspiracy theories not to have to answer questions, but just to raise them and keep raising them.

Dan Ephron

But what gives the theories traction-- what makes a lot of people ready to believe them-- is the way Hillel and the other conspiracists connect their story to some real loose ends about the murder that have never been resolved. Details everyone in the country knows. Of course, loose ends happen in murder cases. I've heard that from investigators. Those details, they just take on more significance when it's an assassination. One famous loose end in this case-- at the moment of the assassination, someone in the parking lot yelled, "Blanks!" Or maybe he yelled, "Fake!" or "It's not real!" Witnesses heard all three. Who yelled it and why, that's never been fully resolved. For Hillel, it's evidence that Amir fired blanks.

Nancy Updike

A prime minister staging his own assassination, all that cloak and dagger artifice-- Hillel believes that's how committed Rabin was to forcing the Oslo deal. At the time of the assassination, the country was split almost exactly in half between Oslo opponents and Oslo supporters. Hillel was one of the many Israelis who hated Oslo. He thought the slogan from the pro-Oslo political rally, "Yes to peace," was a farce.

Hillel Weiss

We felt that Oslo is a total disaster, because it's not peace. It's a mask of peace to annihilate the Jewish state and the Jewish people, like in Holocaust.

Nancy Updike

He says "annihilate the state" because Oslo meant giving up parts of the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinians. That's land Hillel considers sacred to the Jews, and he wrote hundreds of articles against Oslo, by his own estimation-- and in the articles, he went after Rabin.

Hillel Weiss

I want to say to you something that -- when I wrote the articles, I thought that I'm aiming bullets to the head of Rabin, because those words were so sharp.

Nancy Updike

It was these sorts of articles-- plus the posters, the chants of "Death to Rabin," the whole ugly pile of rhetoric-- that, after the assassination, turned public opinion against the right, especially the religious right, and caused a spike in support for the Oslo deal. Hillel and the others on the right watched this and a logic took hold-- the who-benefits logic that's common to conspiracy theories. If the left benefited from the assassination, maybe the left engineered the assassination.

But the benefit was temporary. Within six months, the left was out of power, the right was in power, and Oslo was on its way to being gutted. And that's when the arguments really began.

Today, and for the last 20 years, the Rabin assassination is a club that the right and left continue to beat each other with in a fight over two radically different interpretations of the country's history, its future-- two visions that are irreconcilable. This is a Rabin assassination-related shouting match in the debate right before the most recent election.

Israeli Woman

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Israeli Man

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Israeli Woman

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Israeli Man

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

From the left's perspective, Rabin's assassination is the moment that completely reshaped Israel's history. It killed off the last, best chance for peace between Israels and Palestinians, and Yigal Amir has got to be one of the most successful assassins anywhere. One person told us, "Look, when Lincoln was murdered, it didn't bring back slavery. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, civil rights continued. But after Rabin's murder, Oslo unraveled, settlements expanded, and the right has been in power for most of the past 20 years. I've heard people on the left call the assassination a coup."

The right is incensed by that version of events. They tell a very different story-- that the peace process had no chance anyway, Arafat was never gonna do what he promised. A wave of Palestinian suicide bombings after Rabin's death turned the country against the peace process. In short, Oslo was a fantasy and leftists have been sore losers ever since. They've lost almost every election for the past 20 years, and to make themselves feel better, they bring up the Rabin assassination and try to stain the entire right with that horrible act. A lot of people on the right are offended by the suggestion that Yigal Amir acted on their behalf.

Nancy Updike

We heard again and again in interviews with Israelis on the right and devout Israelis, "Yigal Amir was not from our camp. He was a loner. He lived in Herzliya. He's not a settler. He wore a different kind of kippah--" kippah meaning yarmulke or skullcap. "We don't condone what he did. He is not one of us." That's why we were taken aback when an orthodox man named Menachem Lazar, who comes from a very right-wing background, told us Amir didn't seem foreign to him at all-- just the opposite.

Menachem Lazar

But the moment I heard on the TV about the assassination, my first instinct was to take off my kippah.

Nancy Updike

To take it off your head.

Menachem Lazar

Yeah, because I-- I knew the religious origins of the murder, the religious justification of the assassination. And I told myself, I can't be a part of it. I don't want to be a part of it.

Nancy Updike

Menachem is tall and soft-spoken. He says, after the assassination, he heard things in private, in the synagogue he attends and at gatherings with friends, that disturbed him and that most Israelis would never say publicly.

Menachem Lazar

I remember people saying, "Well, that's good."

Nancy Updike

About-- that he was assassinated.

Menachem Lazar

"He had it coming. That's good." I saw people that were glad that he was assassinated.

Nancy Updike

Menachem didn't take off his kippah in the end. He had young kids and he knew it would confuse them. We were interviewing Menachem because he's a pollster and we wanted to talk to him about the numbers, the fact that a third of Israelis believe there was some kind of conspiracy or cover-up around the assassination. And among people who identify as right-wing, at least 50% doubt Yigal Amir did it. Menachem is a psychologist by training. He was working as a psychologist for the army when Rabin was assassinated, and he said he's never been surprised by the high number of Israelis who believe in the conspiracy theories.

Menachem Lazar

Yeah, most of this part comes from the orthodox Israelis, and the orthodox Jews in Israel were blamed for the murder. I'm only saying that when reality is too, um-- too threatening or too-- it's hard for you to accept what happened. So you come up with the conspiracy theories about JFK, about September 11, and about Rabin. The prime minister was killed. He was killed by a religious Jew. I can't accept that, or I have to find an alternative explanation. And they came up with the conspiracy.

Dan Ephron

It's probably clear by now, I've always been skeptical of the conspiracy theories. There's just so much evidence proving Yigal Amir killed Rabin. But, in reporting on the assassination, I did have one moment when I thought, "Yikes, maybe." It was during an interview with Rabin's daughter, Dalia, who is not a conspiracist and not from the right side of the political map, and yet there was this thing that made even her wonder. And she agreed to talk about it, but she didn't want to be recorded.

It had to do with the idea that what killed Rabin was a bullet to the front. Most of the conspiracy theories hinge on that idea. Remember, Yigal Amir shot Rabin from behind. The pathologist concluded that he was hit by just two bullets, both in the back, no exit wounds. But when I met Dalia in her office, she told me that even she began to have some doubts. She had a box brought up to her office that contained everything her father was wearing on the night of the assassination, down to the socks and shoes. She opened the box and pulled out the shirt her father wore. She held it in that way that you hold something that you don't want to touch, with the tips of her fingers. It's a white collared shirt, entirely encrusted in blood, and ripped in several places. Doctors tore it in the emergency room.

Dalia showed me the two bullet holes in the back of the shirt, and then she flipped the shirt over and pointed to a hole in the front as well. It was perfectly round, smaller than a dime, on the lower-left side, near the buttons. The undershirt Rabin wore that night also had a hole in the front. On her desk, Dalia carefully laid the undershirt inside the shirt, the way it would hang on her father, and the holes lined up. And I have to say, there in her office, with these bloody shirts on the table, it stopped me short. It's a lot harder to dismiss something you see with your own eyes, something the daughter of the murdered man worries about. We just stood there and stared at it.

Dalia told me the clothes sat in Israel's National Archive for a decade after the murder. Then in 2005, there was an Israeli TV documentary about the hole in the front of the shirt. It's inconclusive, but it ends with ominous music and a voiceover about how this third hole, quote, "Raises the possibility of an additional bullet."

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Documentary Host

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Dan Ephron

The TV show popularized the notion that Rabin was actually shot in the front-- you hear that a lot now in Israel-- and it turned the shirt into Exhibit A for the conspiracists, maybe their single most important piece of proof.

Dalia did not want to have the clothes examined herself. She's a public figure and she worried that just the act of her getting them tested would fuel the conspiracy theories. So I asked her if she would let me take the shirt to the US, away from the politics, to have it tested, and she said yes.

Ira Glass

Dan Ephron and Nancy Updike. Coming up, Dan puts the bloody clothing of the dead prime minister into a wheelie bag and brings it to America to be tested. The results in a minute from Chicago Public Radio when our program continues.

Act Two: The Morning

Ira Glass

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Today's program-- "The Night in Question." If you're just tuning in, we're hearing the story of the night that Israeli prime minister Yitzak Rabin was assassinated 20 years ago. The anniversary of his death is in two weeks. It's November 4, 1995. Nancy Updike and Dan Ephron are telling the story, and when we left off before the break, Dan was taking Rabin's bloody clothing from the night of the murder to the United States, with the blessing of Rabin's daughter, to see if the hole in the front of Rabin's shirt was caused by a bullet, which is something that most of the conspiracy theories about the assassination hinge on. OK, here's Dan.

Dan Ephron

I flew to Phoenix, and then drove to Carefree, Arizona, a town of about 3,000 people in the desert. Big, open sky, rock formations, lots of cacti. I pulled up to a one-story house early in the morning.

Dan Ephron

Am I at the right place?

Luke Haag

Yeah, you're at the right place.

Dan Ephron

Lucien Haag-- he goes by Luke-- came out to greet me. He's in his 70s, in brown pants and short sleeve dress shirt and glasses. He works from an office attached to his house. His wife Sandi is there.

Sandi Haag

Do you like tea?

Dan Ephron

Luke is kind of famous among forensic examiners. He's written a book that's a go-to manual in the profession and he's worked on some big cases over the years, including the shootout at Ruby Ridge and the murder of Rabbi Meir Kahane. He also reexamined the ballistics of the Kennedy assassination for an episode of NOVA not too long ago. He has a lab and an indoor firing range. He collects all kinds of things-- there's a periodic table in Russian on one of the walls. And he's got bullets from all kinds of guns. He picks out one to show me.

Luke Haag

--very unusual. That's the kind of bullet that killed Kennedy. And you can see it's very, very long. It's basically a cylinder. Very atypical.

Dan Ephron

He says Lee Harvey Oswald bought the rifle he used in the assassination for $13 and, he concludes--

Luke Haag

It's not a great gun, but it will kill you-- as we know.

Dan Ephron

Luke places my wheelie bag on the countertop in the lab and begins unpacking the clothes, starting with the jacket.

Luke Haag

Boy. Israeli paramedics are even worse-- or more thorough, I guess I should say-- than ours. They just cut the bejeebers out of this.

Dan Ephron

I'm gonna condense the six hours of forensic testing into about three minutes. But, just so you know how thorough he was, Luke tested every garment Rabin wore on his upper body the night of the assassination. He looked at all the holes and he did comparison tests on other parts of the garment. But I had come for the shirt-- and specifically, the hole in the front.

Luke Haag

Whoa. I'm very surprised. "Whoa" doesn't mean "Oh my god, it's a bullet hole." "Whoa" just means "That's a very clean, sharply-defined hole."

Dan Ephron

You know, it almost looks like a, uh-- like a hole punch.

Luke Haag

Yeah. You certainly brought something different and very interesting. And no judgments or pronouncements to make, other than this is different.

Dan Ephron

Luke is looking for three things-- traces of soot, copper, and lead. Bullets leave particles as they pass through fabric. They tend to cling for decades or more, especially with polyester, and Rabin's shirt was 55% cotton, 45% polyester. He photographs the hole with an infrared filter and looks at it through a microscope. He sprays the area and does chemical tests. Everything is negative-- no soot, no copper, no lead. And along the way, Luke has ruled out another possibility-- a cigarette burn. Rabin was a heavy smoker.

Luke suggests one last thing. He wants to fire a new bullet into a swath of Rabin's shirt to see if the hole it makes-- a genuine bullet hole-- looks anything like the mystery hole. He gets out the scissors.

Luke Haag

So for the record, with a pair of sharp scissors, I'm cutting out about a-- oh, about a three-inch square--

Dan Ephron

Luke then said a sentence I've never heard before-- "I think I've got a fresh block of tissue simulant in the garage." He left the lab and came back with a big, brown rectangle of something that was both squishy and firm.

Luke Haas

This behaves similar to soft tissue. If you push into it-- if I push into you or a fat guy like me, it's gonna feel about the same.

Dan Ephron

So the block is a stand-in for human flesh. Luke taped the patch of shirt to the block. We went to his range and then he fired a bullet at the patch. I didn't record the sound because I worried it would blow out the recording equipment, which I don't own. Luke shot from up close. As we figured it, just about any scenario where Rabin was shot in the front would mean he was shot at close range.

Luke then examined the new hole under the microscope. He compared the patch to the mystery hole, looked up from the lens, and that was it. The two looked nothing alike.

Luke Haas

But it just can't be a bullet. I mean, there's just nothing there to support that notion. I've been looking at bullet holes for 47 years or so. I shoot things for a living-- I mean, almost daily I'm shooting something. Everything I see says it's something other than a bullet.

Dan Ephron

So, it's not a bullet hole. That's the important part. Rabin was not shot in the front. Dalia was relieved when I let her know.

The cause of the hole will probably remain one of those loose ends. Maybe someone tampered with the shirt while it sat for years in the archives. Luke speculated that the hole was created by a doctor during the chaos at the hospital, maybe with some medical instrument while they were trying to save his life.

I ran down all sorts of other disputed facts from the night of the assassination. I talked to Shabak officers, the investigators, the prosecutor. The only other thing I want to report to you is the conversation I had with Rabin's driver from that night. Remember that most of the conspiracy theories say Rabin was actually killed in the car, possibly by a mysterious additional person-- not the driver, not the bodyguard, someone else.

Nancy Updike

The driver, Menachem Damti, is listed in the country directory, so we called him up one morning and he said, "Sure, come over this afternoon."

Menachem Damti

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Nancy Updike

He's 66 years old, very fit, a few months away from his pension. He was in gym shorts when we went over. A large percentage of Israelis at any given moment are dressed like they're about to go to the beach or just got back from the beach. He lives in a modest apartment. He was a driver for three decades for political leaders from both parties. He's got a wall in his kitchen covered in framed photos of him with the people he drove for-- several Israeli prime ministers, also Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat. Menachem does a pretty spot on impression of Rabin telling him from the backseat, in his taciturn way, "Menachem, nice maneuver."

Menachem Damti

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

What Menachem remembers about that night, after jumping into the driver's seat, is Rabin's bodyguard, Yoram Rabin, lifting Rabin into the backseat, diving in after him, and then he yells to Menachem, "Go to the hospital, quickly!" Next, Menachem does a quick move he's been taught to make the car doors slam shut.

Menachem Damti

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

The drill is, in order to close the doors, you press on the gas, and then quickly press on the brakes, and then give gas. And the force of the sudden acceleration closes the door, slams the doors. This was-- Menachem is mentioning this because he himself has heard about these conspiracy theories. One of them is who slammed the door-- ostensibly, mysteriously, because there is no one. And this was kind of the evidence that there was someone inside the car in addition to Rabin and Damti and Rabin.

Menachem Damti

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

Then Menachem makes a left, which is the wrong way to go to the hospital. There were people and police barricades all around, he was in shock, and he went left. This is another part of the conspiracy theory-- that he intentionally delayed getting to the hospital so that whoever else was supposedly in the car had time to kill Rabin. It's clear as Menachem is talking that going left that night-- his mistake-- galls him.

Nancy Updike

I asked Menachem what was happening in the car as he drove. Was it chaotic? Was it loud? Were he and the bodyguard Yoram Rabin shouting or talking to each other? Was Rabin making any noise? He said it was horribly, horribly quiet.

Menachem Damti

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

Um, he remembers hearing a little bit from Rabin-- maybe it was a sigh, maybe it was a word-- but mostly nothing. And whatever he did hear, it was mostly Rabin, the bodyguard, from the backseat. Menachem said, "Is he OK? Resuscitate him. Make sure--" and occasionally asking him, "What's his condition?" And then at some point, Rabin says, "I'm also wounded." And from that point on, it felt like utter despair. Menachem felt like he was alone in the car. He was the only one who was actually capable of doing something.

Nancy Updike

What a moment to realize it's just you.

Menachem Damti

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

For 30 years, Menachem had been a driver, and the drill was always that there was a bodyguard sitting next to him. And the bodyguard would say, "You go right here, you go left there. Take this road. Do this." Because everyone had pounced on the shooter and everyone was focused on him, there was no one to come into the car and sit next to Menachem. And it's exactly the way you describe it. He's saying he felt utterly alone, utterly alone.

Nancy Updike

I got a very visceral sense of who Rabin was, what he was in Israel, and what his death meant in the country when we talked to one of his most vocal enemies. This is an activist named Daniella Weiss, no relation to Hillel Weiss. She is right-wing, like Hillel, and her single-minded drive in the last 40 years has been to settle as many Jews as possible in the West Bank as quickly as possible. She helped build one of the early settlements named Kedumim. Now she heads a group that sets up outposts, new settlements built without formal permission from the government. She showed us a map she made when she was mayor of the town.

Daniella Weiss

And I-- I did this with my secretary. We actually pasted all these dots so that we now see all the 250 settlements and outposts.

Nancy Updike

Daniella was considered fringe for a long time, but in the steady drift of Israeli politics, the mainstream has come to her. She organized the main election rally of the right wing a few months ago in Tel Aviv. When it was time for Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak, Daniella is the one who took the stage to introduce him. She's a firm believer in conspiracy theories, by the way.

Talking to Daniella, she's so media savvy, it was like talking to a mind reader sometimes. Before I could even say, "Hey, can you please start that sentence over? A loud truck was going by," she would pause and start the sentence over. We asked her about the Rabin assassination and Daniella was blunt. She knew exactly what it meant for her and her movement-- and for the Oslo deal.

Daniella Weiss

The major thought that crossed my mind was, OK, it's a new time. It's a new era. We will continue-- continue to build the land. I was thinking in historical and political terms.

Dan Ephron

Right away that night?

Daniella Weiss

Right away, when I heard-- when I heard about the murder. I thought history changed-- that Rabin's plan of withdrawal from here, from Judea and Samaria--

Nancy Updike

Judea and Samaria are what religious Jews call the northern and southern parts of the West Bank.

Daniella Weiss

--from Judea and Samaria came to a stop and a new era opened for us. And from the day-to-day, the chances of removing us from here get lower and lower.

Nancy Updike

We were talking to Danielle in her living room and she told us she has a plaque outside, built into the wall around her house, commemorating the founding of Kedumim, and it quotes Rabin.

Nancy Updike

Can we go look at this plaque right now?

Daniella Weiss

Of course. Right now. Naturally.

Nancy Updike

We walked out her front door, down the path through her yard, around to the right, and down the hill a bit. Kedumim is a lush, well-tended, sunny, suburban-looking place, like a lot of the oldest settlements. The plaque says the quote is from the minutes of a cabinet meeting back from when Rabin was prime minister the first time in 1975 and he had to decide what to do about Daniella Weiss and others who had taken over this hill in the West Bank, this hill in front of us. It's pretty well surrounded by Palestinian towns. Every time the Israeli army removed them, they went back-- eight times, the plaque says.

Daniella Weiss

I like to show this quotation from Yitzhak Rabin because I find it very much encouraging for the future. Because people tell us, OK, you'll see. For instance, today, the world will boycott you. Nobody will buy things that are produced in the settlement. And there is this obstacle and that obstacle. So I always refer people to Rabin's declaration.

Nancy Updike

She reads from the plaque.

Daniella Weiss

"The words of Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister, to the members of the government." [SPEAKING HEBREW]

Nancy Updike

The quote is short. Rabin said, about Daniella and the others, "Let them enter Camp Kadum, and after three weeks, they'll all go home." His thinking was, no houses, no electricity, no water, no toilets-- if we call their bluff and leave them there, these people are not gonna stick it out. The dismissiveness was typical of Rabin dealing with the settlers. He didn't like them and he didn't hide it. He called them a cancer in the body of Israeli democracy. He saw them as fringe, especially compared to him. His political party had held power for decades. They founded the country. Rabin was a general. He'd won the Six Day War. He was Israel. And he was utterly secular, completely unmoved by the spiritual attachment religious Jews feel toward the West Bank. To him, the settlers were an irritant.

Daniella Weiss

Well, it was a big mistake on his side. From my point of view, I'm glad he made this mistake.

Nancy Updike

That he underestimated the settlers, the settlement movement.

Daniella Weiss

Had he estimated it properly, he would have blocked it.

Nancy Updike

Oslo was Rabin's do-over, his attempt to block the settlements the way he failed to do in 1975. And Daniella is one of the few right-wing Israelis we talked to who says openly, "We won. After Rabin died, the path toward our vision of the future was clearer than it ever was before. And we've been building settlements since then. We won the land and we won the politics." Today, only 15% of the country identifies as left wing. The left is the fringe.

Here in America, lots of us think it's a tough, complicated situation over there. There's violence, there's anger, there's mistrust, but somehow this is going to work out eventually. In the end, the Israelis will give up land. In the end, Palestinian violence will subside. They will have their own state. Somehow, this is all going to happen. But in the 20 years since for Rabin's death, it hasn't happened. And it's not getting more likely. It's getting less likely.

Dan Ephron

There's a letter Hagai, the assassin's brother, wrote from prison sometime after the assassination. It's a letter where he explains why he and his brother decided to kill Rabin. And he puts the assassination in the context of the long arc of Jewish history. He already knows what it means for Israel. He writes, "According to Judaism, killing a king is profoundly significant. It affects the entire nation and alters its destiny." Hagai has no patience for the conspiracists. They attribute the murder to someone else, which means they deny him and his brother the credit for an act the Amir brothers knew at the time would save Israel. Now, 20 years later, they feel vindicated.

Nancy Updike

And as we were interviewing Hagai sitting in his front yard, we had a moment that made us realize what a weird disconnect he and his brother live every day. We're sitting there talking and we notice that something was up with his mother, Geula. She was sort of hovering nearby. She offered us water, asked if we wanted to sit inside. She was very welcoming. And then she just stayed outside, within earshot, clearly listening, doing what seemed like make-work in the yard. It was after 9:00 at night. And at some point, she jumped into the conversation from the sidelines and said to her son, "And you-- tell the truth. Don't hide anything."

Geula Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Nancy Updike

"Tell the truth." She's saying that to her son. Even his own mother believes the conspiracy theories. Maybe someone else killed Rabin. Maybe they set up her sons to take the fall. Maybe her own sons aren't telling her the full truth. Geula doesn't come over. She just stays off to the side. But she starts arguing with Hagai about what happened on the night of the assassination. Danny and I are barely in the conversation at all-- it's just the two of them talking to each other with Danny sometimes translating-- and they get into the nitty-gritty of the night. She starts talking about the bus Yigal Amir took to the rally where he shot Rabin. She's saying, "How hard would it have been for a pickpocket to have taken the gun and switched the bullets for blanks?"

Geula Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Dan Ephron

Hagai says, "It would have been very hard." He says, "Yigal used to keep his gun between his belt and his body, the same way I do. You'd feel it if someone tried to take it out."

Hagai Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Nancy Updike

Geula says, "Not if it's a professional pickpocket. Their skill is stunning. It's unimaginable. They can take your ear from here and put it over there." She says she talked about all of this to Yigal and he got mad at her. He said, "Conspiracy this, conspiracy that. You're my mother."

Geula Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Nancy Updike

She said to him, "Yes, I'm your mother, but I'm not dumb. We have to understand what's going on here." She goes on, "Of course Yigal confessed. They put you in a position where you have to confess."

Dan Ephron

Hagai says, "The confession has nothing to do with it. He fired his gun. Let's say that if Rabin hadn't died, if he'd only been crippled, then OK. But Yigal took into account that Rabin might die. He shot him in the back."

Hagai Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Geula Amir

[SPEAKING HEBREW]

Nancy Updike

Geula eventually went back inside. Hagai told us that the problem with the conspiracy theories is that they take away the whole ideological statement they were trying to make by killing Rabin, the clear message that Oslo was terrible and that Yigal Amir acted on what he saw as his religious obligation to stop Rabin. Yigal Amir, in his interrogation with policeman Moti Naftali, said he felt he had to kill Rabin before a crazy person did it. He said if a crazy person killed Rabin, it wouldn't have the right impact. The message would have been lost.

Ira Glass

Nancy Updike is one of the producers of our show. Dan Ephron is the author of the book Killing a King-- The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel, which comes out this week. Yigal Amir and Hagai Amir have recently come around to the idea that maybe the conspiracy theorists are correct about one thing-- maybe there are loose ends out there that might exonerate Yigal, who's still in prison. They're looking at these now and considering petitioning for a retrial.

[MUSIC - "LINCOLN LIMOUSINE" BY JERRY LEE LEWIS]

Credits

Ira Glass

Well, our program was produced today by Jonathan Menjivar with Zoe Chace, Sean Cole, Neil Drumming, Stephanie Foo, Chana Joffe-Walt, Miki Meek, Brian Reed, Robyn Semien, Alissa Shipp, and Nancy Updike. Our editor is Joel Lovell. Julie Snyder is our editorial consultant. Other editing help today from Susan Burton, production help from Lilly Sullivan. Seth Lind is our operations director. Emily Condon's our production manager. Elise Bergerson is our business operations manager. Elna Baker scouts stories for our show. Kimberly Henderson is the office coordinator. Research help today from Christopher Swetala. Original music used as scoring all this hour by Merel & Tony. Other musical help today from Damian Graef and Rob Geddis.

Special thanks today to Daniel Estrin, David Blumenfeld, and Shlomo Harnoy of the Sdema Group.

Our website-- thisamericalife.org.

This American Life is delivered to public radio stations by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange.

[FUNDING CREDITS]

Thanks, as always, to our program's co-founder, Mr. Torey Malatia, who has been obsessed lately-- obsessed, I tell you-- watching the Israeli edition of Sesame Street. He especially loves this one character on the show who is always asking--

Moti Naftali

"Don't you have any cookies?"

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass. Shabbat shalom, everybody. Back next week with more stories of This American Life.

[MUSIC - "LINCOLN LIMOUSINE" BY JERRY LEE LEWIS]

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