Obama, Other Dignitaries, Set to Attend Peres’s Funeral

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli president SHimon Peres (L) meets with US president Barack Obama, in the White House, Washington DC, on June 25, 2014. Peres is on an official state visit in the US. Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO/FLASH90
Former Israeli President Shimon Peres (L) meets with President Barack Obama, in the White House, in 2014. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

The government is set to meet Wednesday morning to discuss arrangements for the funeral of Shimon Peres, which will take place on Friday, after the family decision. The funeral will take place at Mount Herzl cemetery in Yerushalayim. Peres will be interred next to former Prime Ministers Yitzchak Shamir and Yitzchak Rabin.

Also meeting Wednesday morning are top staff of the Foreign Ministry, to coordinate the arrival of what are expected to be dozens of heads of state and top diplomats who plan to attend the funeral. The Ministry announced that among those attending will be U.S. President Barack Obama. Along with Obama, Israel will be hosting French President Francois Hollande, German President Joachim Gauck, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Britain’s Prince Charles, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, as well as former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

It will be the biggest gathering of international leaders to converge on Israel since the funeral of Rabin, in 1995.

In a statement, Obama said that “A light has gone out, but the hope he gave us will burn forever. There are few people who we share this world with who change the course of human history, not just through their role in human events, but because they expand our moral imagination and force us to expect more of ourselves. My friend Shimon was one of those people.”

Exacerbating the efforts to ensure the safety of the arriving top officials is the fact that Thursday, when most of the leaders are expected, is set to be the busiest-ever day at Ben Gurion Airport, as Israelis depart for destinations for Rosh Hashanah – including dozens of flights to Ukraine, where tens of thousands spend Rosh Hashanah in Uman – and Jews from abroad come to Israel to celebrate the chag. Officials warned those coming and going to expect significant delays due to security and other considerations. Those visiting Yerushalayim on Friday are also warned that large parts of the city may be closed to vehicular traffic, and the area around Mount Herzl will be under very tight security.

In a statement Wednesday, the Prime Minister’s Office said that “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara express deep sorrow at the passing of a great man in the annals of the history of Israel, former President Shimon Peres. Together with all Israelis, the entire Jewish people, and many people of the world, we bow our heads in sorrow over his passing.”

President Reuven Rivlin said he is cutting short an official visit to Ukraine to attend the funeral of Peres.

Rivlin is in Ukraine for a commemoration of the 1941 Babi Yar massacre, in which more than 100,000 Jews and others were killed by Nazi officers in a ravine on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev during World War II.

Rivlin said in a statement Wednesday, “A short distance from where I am visiting in Ukraine, in the city of Vishnyeva, Belarus, was born Szymon Perski, who grew to be a young man with great dreams.” Peres later immigrated to pre-state Israel and changed his last name.

Rivlin noted that “there was no event of importance in the history of Israel that Shimon did not have a part in writing. He was an individual who carried the fate of the nation on his shoulders.”

Rivlin says, “Shimon made us look far into the future, and we loved him. We loved him because he made us dare to imagine not what was once here, nor what is now, but what could be.”

Rivlin succeeded Peres as president in 2014.