Prof. Benzion Netanyahu, father of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, was a
courageous and intelligent man whose dedication to Israel’s history illuminated
the way for Israel’s future, eulogizers told hundreds of mourners as the
102-year-old scholar was laid to rest in Jerusalem on Monday
Heavy security in the cemetery meant the service was limited
to approximately 400 people.
The prime minister and his younger brother
Ido, an author and doctor, memorialized their father’s penchant for speaking
eloquent ancient Hebrew at all times, even when he had just broken his hand, and
his devotion to learning above all else.
“When Yoni said he wanted to
stay in the army, my father said to him, decide what you decide but make sure
you take time to learn, because learning is the most important,” Binyamin
“What interested him above all was the truth,” said
Ido Netanyahu. “He was never interested in fame, just the actions
“You were smart, you always saw things coming, years before
the realization of Herzl’s predictions, you understood he was right,” the prime
minister recounted. “In 1937, when you were just 27, you wrote: ‘Herzl saw the
glowing coals of fiery hatred against the Jews are about to flare up
There was in his eyes the look of catastrophe. It was clear that
someone was lying in wait to annihilate the nation.’” Binyamin Netanyahu spoke
of his father’s dedication to lobbying members of the US Senate and Congress in
1939 to support the founding of the state of Israel, after he traveled to
America with Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
Jabotinsky died in America, but Benzion
continued to lobby politicians to support Israel’s founding.
“You were in
our heritage, our culture, our founding,” remembered the prime
“For 10 years you turned the Encyclopedia Hebraica into a
reservoir of deep knowledge so much so that very few homes in Israel didn’t have
this Encyclopedia Hebraica, and that could have been enough for an entire
lifetime, but it was just the beginning for you.”
Both brothers spoke
fondly of many memories of living in the United States during the elder
Netanyahu’s research, which led him to universities on the East
The Netanyahu sons and President Shimon Peres also spoke at length
about Benzion’s oldest son, Yonatan, who was killed in the Entebbe raid in
“The Entebbe operation was the Zionist and Jewish choice,” Peres
told the mourners. “The father planted the roots, and the children grew
He also noted how fitting it was that Benzion wrote about
history, while his son Binyamin is making history.
The funeral attendees
represented the upper crust of Israel’s political scene, including the highest
representatives from the police, army and security establishments. In addition
to most of the ministers, Netanyahu rivals opposition leader Shaul Mofaz and
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich also attended the funeral.
As per Jewish
custom, the Netanyahu family was the last to leave the graveside, greeting each
of the mourners personally as they came to pay their respects. The fresh
gravesite of the late Netanyahu was heaped with dozens of commemorative wreaths
from every branch of the government and major organizations.
ended his eulogy with something his father had written to Yonatan 46 years ago:
“I never told you how proud I am of the man you have grown into,” he said, “and
of being your son.”