NEW YORK, NOV. 6 -- They came by the thousands to Brooklyn today, an army of Jews honoring the memory of Rabbi Meir Kahane, the unruly extremist whom few here had supported before he was shot to death by an assassin Monday night.
"A pillar of Zion has fallen," a man shouted again and again through a megaphone as hundreds of mourners tried to crowd into Young Israel of Ocean Parkway, a temple. "A prophet has fallen for the sacred land."
The synagogue is one of dozens dominating the largely Orthodox Midwood neighborhood where Kahane, 58, militant founder of the Jewish Defense League and Israel's defiant Kach party, spent much of his life. His death set off a wave of anxiety in Israel, where he lived, and in New York, where he was born and reared.
Police said today that Kahane's assailant was born in Egypt and was granted U.S. citizenship last year. Chief of Detectives Joseph Borrelli said El-Sayyid A. Nosair, 34, a city maintenance worker and father of three, apparently acted alone in the attack inside a midtown Manhattan hotel where Kahane had delivered a lecture.
A State Department official said there is no evidence that the suspect was connected to an international terrorist organization. Department spokesman Richard Boucher urged Kahane's followers not to seek retribution.
However, Sol Margolis, president of Kach International, the U.S. arm of Kahane's extremist party, told mourners today: "There will be revenge. We believe in revenge."
Kahane's followers filled the wide avenues of Flatbush and Midwood today carrying placards in Hebrew demanding "Revenge" and "Death to All Arabs." Kahane was known for his strident desire to banish Arabs from Israel and Israeli-held territory.
At the end of the service, they chanted "Never Again," his organization's rallying cry recalling the Nazi Holocaust, as they filed out of the temple and into the streets.
In the yeshivas of Brooklyn, on the streets filled with kosher food shops and stores selling religious artifacts to thousands of Orthodox Jews who live here, Kahane's death was called the bitter end of a martyr. At the long funeral ceremony before his body was placed on a plane to Israel, there was no talk of reaching out to Arabs, of healing or of peace.
"The people of Israel live," came the shouts in Hebrew as blue and white police vans and bright yellow yeshiva school buses crowded the broad avenue. Security was extremely tight.
Longtime members of the temple pleaded with a special board of rabbis to gain entrance to the services, but few were permitted to enter. Some onlookers fainted, and tempers flashed as dozens of silent, bearded men fought to pass through the wrought-iron gates.
Kahane always exuded remarkable charisma. Author Robert I. Friedman, who has written extensively on Kahane and the Israeli religious right, referred to him as a "pied piper of confused Jewish youth," a man who had "a knack for convincing youngsters that violence in the name of Greater Israel or Soviet Jewry is heroic in the tradition of the Bible."
In a eulogy magnified so powerfully that it echoed off squat brick buildings lining Ocean Parkway and Kings Highway, Rabbi Moishe Tendler of Washington Heights said: "To his body and his head we must bid farewell. But we will never say goodbye to this child of the land. This is a ceremony for a son of the Torah who fell in service to his beloved state of Israel."
Kahane was shot twice as he answered questions from a Zionist group called Jewish Idea about his controversial view that every Jew should return to Israel and that all Arabs must be evicted.
It was a quick, violent end to a life that enflamed, angered and emboldened thousands. He demanded rigorous Jewish orthodoxy and a ban on mixed marriages, and his life was marked by violent outbursts toward those who opposed his views.
"Revenge is a very Jewish concept," he once said of his call to expel the 1.6 million Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israelis and Americans gave him a mixed reception.
Elected to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, as leader of his party in 1984, he was capable of drawing thousands of chanting demonstrators to the streets of Old Jerusalem. But his vitriolic denunciations of Arabs were met with horror and disgust by many and, after four years in the Knesset, his party was banned as racist.
Many supporters said Kahane was reviled only for saying what other Jewish activists were thinking. Others saw great irony in the appearance of thousands today to mourn a man whom few would invite into their homes.
"Nobody likes to know in this world that they have enemies or who they are," said Harold Engelsohn, a friend of Kahane from his youth in Brooklyn. "The rabbi told us. He dared to let us know we are still hated, and for that he was not a popular man.
"Less than a year ago, we were walking with him and his wife on the rooftops of the Old City" of Jerusalem. "He always said if he was killed, it would never be in Israel."
Students listened silently as several rabbis reminded mourners that, despite Kahane's controversial nature, he was a committed Jew, a learned and devoted man.
Late today, police officials said they had found no motive for the shooting. "The facts indicate . . . it was a lone gunman who committed a homicide," Borrelli said. "There were no shouts or . . . conversation between the assailant and Rabbi Kahane before the shooting."
Several facts about the suspect's life remain a mystery. Police said he immigrated in 1981 and apparently used several names, although they declined to be more specific.
Police said the suspect last lived in New Jersey, but they would not reveal where until they investigate further. He also apparently used a Brooklyn address, they said. At a stately brick apartment building there, police said they found Nosair's American-born wife, Caren, and detained her for questioning.
Police said she was cooperative but provided no information about a possible motive or any unusual behavior by her husband before the shooting. Borrelli said the woman told police "she's a good Muslim wife and she never questions her husband."
Police said she is a convert to Islam who met her husband in a mosque in Pittsburgh and that they have two boys and a girl, the oldest of whom is 8.
A city official who asked not to be identified said that evaluations of Nosair's job performance were positive and that he had a reputation as a deeply religious man who prayed several times during the workday.
Nosair has been charged with second-degree murder, attempted murder in the first degree, second-degree assault, two counts of weapons possession and unlawful imprisonment because he commandeered a cab during his attempted getaway. Police said they confiscated a .357 magnum and a six-shot Ruger revolver with a defaced serial number.
Police said they have not questioned Nosair, who remains in critical condition at Bellevue Hospital with a bullet in his chin after being wounded in a confrontation with a Postal Service police officer as he attempted to flee the hotel.