Rally organizers apologize to those left out

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NEW YORK — The organizers of the Dec. 10 rally here to pay tribute to slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin released a statement Tuesday apologizing for the fact that thousands of people were unable to get into Madison Square Garden to attend the event.

The organizers "apologize to all those who could not participate in this historic event," the statement said. "It was our intention, from the outset of our planning, that every group and individual desiring to attend would be accommodated."

Between 14,000 and 15,000 people attended the event, which was organized in about 10 days by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the United Jewish Appeal Federation of New York, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, the State of Israel Bonds and the World Jewish Congress.

Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Rabin's widow Leah Rabin Vice President Al Gore and more than 40 members of Congress paid tribute to the slain prime minister.

However, crowds waited outside in subfreezing temperatures, frustrated as to why they could not make their way inside to take part in the rally in support of the government and the people of Israel and for the pursuit of peace. Thousands more made it in, but only halfway through the program.

Conference organizers said in the statement that they were sorry that thousands of people "were unable to gain entrance to the event due to stringent security requirements and circumstances beyond our control."

Organizers said tickets were not distributed in advance because of the short time allowed in planning the event, which contributed to the confusion.

"In planning the memorial tribute, tickets were set aside for groups that made reservations, and at the last minute, security cut the number of seats that had been promised earlier," the planners said.

They also pointed to the metal detectors, which were fixed at the highest setting and caused further delays.