Leon Klinghoffer, the only hostage killed aboard the hijacked ocean liner Achille Lauro, died in "a Holocaust of one," his rabbi of 20 years said today.
More than 800 people crowded into Temple Shaaray Tefila in Manhattan for Klinghoffer's funeral. "You worked so hard, with so much hardship, but you never complained," said his daughter, Ilsa, gazing at the mahogany coffin. "The world now knows you as a hero, but you were always a hero to us."
Klinghoffer, 69 and partially paralyzed by a stroke, died at the hands of four Palestinians who allegedly shot him in the head and ordered his body and his wheelchair thrown into the sea. "There was no justification for Leon's murder," Rabbi Harvey M. Tattelbaum said. "I cannot conceive of his brutal slaying as being God's will."
But the tragedy, Tattelbaum said, was not without its miracles: Klinghoffer's body washed ashore on the coast of Syria a few days after his death; the Syrian government released the body quickly, and the United States intercepted the Egyptian airliner carrying the hijackers. The Italians have charged them with murder and piracy.
Klinghoffer's widow, Marilyn, sat with daughters Lisa, 34, and Ilsa, 28, and Ilsa's fiancee, Paul Dworin. Among the others present were New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo; New York City Mayor Edward I. Koch; Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.); Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.); Rep. Ted Weiss (D-N.Y.); and Col. Azriel Nevo, representing Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Perez.
Charlotte Spiegel, a close friend of Marilyn and Leon Klinghoffer and a fellow passenger on the Achille Lauro cruise, eulogized Klinghoffer as a kind and thoughtful man who fought with "unremitting determination" against his disability only to become a victim of "a bunch of mad and debased criminals."
"We will miss not Leon the public figure, but Leon the man who did not seek public recognition, who only wanted to speak a little clearer, walk a little better" -- well enough, Spiegel said, to walk Ilsa down the aisle.
A private burial was held in Kenilworth, N.J.