Rabins granddaughter talks about sorrow and hope

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Noa Ben Artzi-Pelossof says she's "too young" for many things.

Too young to know which career to pursue. Too young to tout detailed political views. Too young to remain immersed in grief indefinitely.

But the 19-year-old granddaughter of slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is old enough to engage the world — first with a moving eulogy at his funeral in November and now with a book dedicated to his memory.

"It's true I knew him as only an admiring granddaughter, but there's a huge man there," she said in a telephone interview Tuesday from New York. "Nobody was there to tell the real story of this man."

After her eulogy, which The New York Times and other major media reprinted, she decided to use her instant and — she expects — fleeting prominence to fill the role of storyteller.

"I thought, `Hey, I could do something with this attention. I can deliver a clearer picture of him.'"

Her book, "In the Name of Sorrow and Hope," was released this month in the United States, Canada, Italy, Germany, France, Holland and Israel. Her monthlong book tour includes a San Francisco talk and signing at 7 p.m. Friday, April 26 at Glide Memorial Church, 330 Ellis St..

The book details her relationship with Rabin, her struggles growing up in his shadow and her bonds with Israel.

Some of the memories are cute and folksy, such as when Rabin rushed his little granddaughter out of bed, fearing for her life, because she had wet the electric blanket. Others are heart-breaking, such as the moment the doctor told the anxious family members that Rabin had died.

Ben Artzi-Pelossof, now an Israeli Defense Force private posted at the army's newspaper headquarters in Tel Aviv, has been allowed to take a month off from her military duty to promote the book in Europe and North America.

But this young woman with an easy laugh and a seemingly unspoiled attitude notes quickly that the book tour isn't getting her out of the 17 months of military service required of women. Like anyone else, she must make up the leave by extending her duty a month.

Her friction with fame, in fact, comes up again and again in the book. She's been teased and taunted about her lineage over the years. Since the funeral, even average Israelis recognize her freckled face and red hair.

Today, she labels the international interest and literally dozens of interviews scheduled in the United States as "weird" because of the circumstances.

"People discover you because of the most horrible day of your life," she said in a heavy Israeli accent.

She refutes reports that she received a $1 million advance for the book. Ben Artzi-Pelossof's fee was "in the low hundreds of thousands."

Still, she is well aware of critics who say she is exploiting Rabin's name or commercializing the assassination.

"My grandfather would tell me: `You should live at peace with yourself. You can't please everybody,'" she said.

"I know what I'm doing is right."

Ben Artzi-Pelossof said she could have rejected the book offer and played it safe, which she calls "a loser attitude."

Instead, she spent two months in "a kind of therapy" as she dived into her memories and wrote.

In contrast, Ben Artzi-Pelossof has found no comfort in last month's guilty verdict for confessed assassin Yigal Amir.

"I don't think about him much," she said. "Dealing with hatred and revenge won't bring my grandpa back and it won't make it any easier on the family."

She doesn't blame all Orthodox Jews for the slaying. But this secular Jew said she believes tolerance must be ingrained into every Israeli child in order to prevent similar tragedies.

"I guess all Israelis have learned a lesson," she said. "It's too bad my grandfather had to pay such a huge price."

Though she purposely steers away from politics in the book, Ben Artzi-Pelossof acknowledges that she supports a separate Palestinian state. She plans to major in political science in university.

"I think reality proved we can't live together," she said of the Israelis and Palestinians.

She acknowledges a strong desire to live in a "normal" Israel someday. She doesn't mean a miniature America, just "the same Israel without the fighting."

Despite the recent suicide bombings in Israel and the combat in Lebanon, Ben Artzi-Pelossof is convinced that a "warm peace" with Israel's neighbors is possible.

"I hope so. And I believe so," she said. "Even in my lifetime."