First lady visits L.A.-area JCC, then heads to Israel

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Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea, flew to Israel on Tuesday and participated in a Tel Aviv University conference on preventing violence.

Clinton was the guest of honor at a dinner at Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's residence and attended a coffee house, sponsored by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, that serves as a forum for Israeli teenagers to discuss their concerns.

After two days in Israel, the Clintons were scheduled to meet with Queen Noor in Jordan.

The trips are considered part of her campaign to gain a New York Senate seat.

At the JCC, she spoke against a backdrop of American and Israeli flags.

"In the face of unspeakable tragedy, you have shown the importance of going on, not giving in to bitterness or hopelessness.

"Our best weapon [is] gathering and speaking out and making clear that we will never give in to violence."

She also urged voters to pressure Congress to pass a tough Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

"We need to make it easier to prosecute these people," she said. "We can't permit the virus of hate crimes to infect our society."

President Clinton recently vetoed the bill after congressional Republicans stripped the bill of its toughest provisions.

Lionell Bell, chairman of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation, applauded the first lady's stand.

"We all know what can happen to our children now," he said. "I don't see how anybody can be against tougher laws that fight hate."

Earlier in her visit, Clinton read the children's story "The Rainbow Fish" to a classroom. She also met privately with the shooting victims and their families, including 6-year-old Benjamin Kadish, who was the most gravely wounded and is still using a wheelchair.