President Shimon Peres spent his final night in office comforting bereaved families of soldiers who fell in battle in Gaza..
It has been an extremely emotional week for him not only because he is leaving what he calls his gilded cage, but also because he has spent each day this week with grieving families.
Given the little time that he had at his disposal, it was not easy for him to choose which families to comfort, but what he tried to do was to make a fair selection from Israel’s demographic mosaic.
On Wednesday, he had to be particularly flexible because the plans that he had initially made to visit the families of Staff Sergeant Moshe Malko and Lone Soldier SergeantMax Steinberg had to be changed in order to fit in with the timetable of United States Secretary of State John Kerry.
It was particularly important to Peres who has been a staunch supporter of the Ethiopian community to visit the Malko family at the Shaarei Ezra Synagogue in Jerusalem’s Neve Yaacov neighborhood, and equally important to sit with the family of Max Steinberg in the capital’s Crowne Plaza hotel. The Steinberg family came from California for the funeral, and Peres brought with him a letter of appreciation which he had written in advance.
The letter reads: Dear Evie, Stuart, Jake and Paige, As Max is being put to rest today, in my name and on behalf of the people of Israel, I want to extend our profound condolences on the tragic death of your son and brother.
We are overcome with sorrow at the loss of one so young, and our hearts go out to you in these difficult times. By volunteering for the Golani Infantry Brigade, Max made his choice to defend the State of Israel and its people, and fell in the line of duty. We salute his valor and loyalty to the country he called home, and will honor his memory and legacy in perpetuity.
Today, we bow our head in respect to a brave young man and soldier, and as we mourn together with you on this day of bereavement, I offer my deepest sympathy.
May you know no more sorrow and may he rest in peace.
Shimon Peres The Steinberg family sat shiva in one of the meeting rooms of the hotel and Peres after embracing them spent time asking them about their son and listening to anecdotes about the young man who was determined to prove his mettle in the Golani Brigade.
It was a little more heart breaking for him to visit the Malko family where all the relatives appeared to be completely broken in spirit. Their anguish was tangible, though they said very little. But the expressions on their faces indicated how honored they were that the President of the State of Israel had made the effort to come and see them at the height of their grief.
On a table next to where they were sitting was a computer screen with a close up photograph of a heroic looking Moshe Malko in army uniform.
Before leaving, Peres wrote in the visitor’s book that Moshe had been a courageous fighter who had been dedicated to the defense of his country, and it was for this reason that Peres had come in his own name and in the name of the nation to offer condolences to the Malko family. He was aware that Moshe had volunteered for every dangerous mission, that he was fearless and well liked by everyone Moshe represented the best in Israel, the best in the IDF. “I came here to salute him” wrote Peres.
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