November 18, 2018

Wife of Rabin’s Assassin Discusses Relationship, Life

An Orthodox woman, wearing a dark outfit and a hat too big for her, rushes into Café Hillel at a very busy Jerusalem mall. Larissa Trimbobler-Amir smiles apologetically and with a strong Russian accent explains how bad traffic was on her way to Jerusalem.

“It took me 90 minutes to drive from Ramle Prison to the heart of this busy city,” she says.

Her smile and soft voice are immediately appealing. Offered some coffee and cake, she accepts with a gentle gratefulness. She has come to talk about her marriage to Yigal Amir, who is serving a life sentence for the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.

The conversation took place before the recent announcement that she is pregnant with her husband’s child.

Asked how she became interested in Amir, she smiles with genuine warmth and begins to talk:

“I was following the case of the assassination of Rabin and was very taken by how this man, Yigal, came across. He accepted all responsibility and did not, in any way, try to unload any of it on someone else.

“His integrity shined out as a force irreducible to circumstances in question and a value he would not compromise,” she says. “I saw someone who acted on his judgment, knowing that it will cost him his life or his liberty.”

This Orthodox mother of four is an immigrant from the former Soviet Union who holds a doctorate of philosophy. A few years ago, before she made the commitment to be the wife of Yigal Amir, she was employed by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and conducting scientific research. Asked what created the closeness between her and her husband, she hesitates and then smiles again, as though expecting some sort of cynicism to be building up.

“I want to say that first and foremost it is our philosophy and ideals that created the closeness,” she says. “I have written my doctorate on the philosophy of the Rambam. I have sent Yigal philosophical books, from Kafka to the Rambam, and we enjoy talking about ideas.

“Yigal did all of this reading to hopefully, one day, help me in my future intellectual endeavors. We talk as much about Rilke and Tolstoy as we do on my children and their homework.

“Whenever my son needs help in reading and understanding a certain chapter in the Bible, he waits for Yigal to call, and they do the work together,” she continues. “My daughters, who are 15 and 17, also have a close relationship with him. They all have met with him in prison and have grown to respect and like him very much.”

Asked if the relationship with Amir does not hurts them socially, she responds, “No. Not at all. In the Orthodox community, we find a lot of warmth and support. People might not agree with the killing of Rabin, but they do understand where Yigal was coming from.

“People always ask me how he is doing and if there is something he needs that they could help with,” she says. “As for the non-Orthodox people around, other than the media, I never encountered any hate or verbal disapproval regarding my relationship with him. The only words of hatred came from the media.”

Trimbobler-Amir expresses no bitterness or negativity, even when she talks about how hard it is for her financially, now that she is no longer employed by the Hebrew University.

After receiving a phone call from her daughter, with whom she speaks in Russian, Trimbobler-Amir excuses herself but invites her interviewer to visit her at her home in Jerusalem.

On this second visit, all her children are home. Trimbobler-Amir’s mother, who lives with them to help with the children, lives in a small room at the back of the house. The smell of home cooking and wood burning fills the small living room.

“It took me years to get to see Yigal” Trimbobler-Amir says. “I don’t know if you know that it was not easy at all. After our correspondence was going on for two years and I was already very close with his family, I was granted permission to visit him. His mother, Geula, is a very loving and caring woman. From the beginning, she was so grateful to have me there for Yigal. So happy and supportive.”

When asked about their first meeting and how he proposed, she again gives a gentle laugh of discomfort.

“Well, it was not as though we were strangers in any way,” she explains. “Our first meeting was after hours of talking on the phone and hundreds of letters written. He was everything I hoped he will be. Very calm and thoughtful and totally not self-centered.

“He talked about the hardships I might be facing and helped in giving me the strength to not be threatened by it,” Trimbobler-Amir reveals. “He asked about my children and how they are doing with school work and kids their own age. Also, he told me that he was going to study Russian on his own and wanted me to send him the right books.

“By now, he is fluent in the language and has already translated a book I have written in Russian to Hebrew. Now we have to get the court to grant me permission to get it out of prison. I need to find someone who can read the translation and declare that no hidden words of propaganda were implanted into it.

“The court, however, first has to agree that the man is acceptable by the justice system,” she says. “More and more and forever more complications.”

The phone rings. It is Yigal Amir. He agrees to speak to this reporter. I introduce myself, and he says jokingly that I must know who he is, but in case I don’t, his name is Yigal. After a very short pause, I ask him to explain why he felt that killing Rabin was justified and if he, in any way, regrets it.

“No, I can not regret it,” Yigal Amir says. “It was not a wish of mine or a momentary feeling of no conclusive reasoning behind it. It was my conviction, and I still think it was right. If not for my act, to cut a long story short, you would have had to negotiate peace when the Palestinians were already in your backyard.