A roller coaster ride for Rivlin on the last day of 2018

On the last day of 2018, Rivlin's schedule called for an Interior Ministry event at The Avenue in Airport City at 10 a.m.

January 1, 2019 01:56
4 minute read.
President Rivlin spoke at the Dov Lautman Conference on Educational Policy.

President Rivlin spoke at the Dov Lautman Conference on Educational Policy.. (photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)


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President Reuven Rivlin is used to having back to back events in his official residence, where he’s known to rush from meeting to meeting.

But on the last day of 2018, his schedule called for an Interior Ministry event at The Avenue in Airport City at 10 a.m.

The president also attended the Calcalist Economic Forecast conference at EXPO in Tel Aviv at 11 a.m. and the delivery of a eulogy for novelist and peace activist Amos Oz at 12 p.m. at Tzavta Theater.

It would have been a tough call even for a young man, but Rivlin at age 79 is the same age as his former classmate and neighbor, Oz. Rivlin recalled his long friendship with Oz when he delivered his eulogy on Monday.

Although Oz was secular, he respected those who were religiously observant. Rivlin defined himself as secular orthodox, meaning that certain orthodox customs of his childhood stayed with him.

Thus, when he approached the coffin he placed a black kippah on his head and speaking to Oz, said: “I know this makes you angry Amos.”

It was a eulogy delivered not as a matter of lip service at the passing of a literary giant, but rather as an emotional cry from the heart. When he finished, Rivlin wiped tears from his eyes and left the stage to the sound of sustained applause – a sound not usually heard at funerals – although this was not only a final journey but a celebration of the life of the deceased.

In their youth, Rivlin recalled that Oz had been envious of him because he danced with all the girls. But he had been envious of Oz due to his fearless courage and his ability to simultaneously love and be angry at the State of Israel.

“You, Amos, were not only never afraid of being in the minority, you weren’t even afraid of being called a ‘traitor.’ In fact, you saw the term as a badge of honor. I was also envious of...your ability to know our society to its depths, to be angry with it until it hurt and to love it forever and infinitely,” the president said.

Rivlin was perplexed and said that he didn’t know which Amos to talk about: “My Amos or our Amos.”

Rivlin said that while still a member of Knesset, he read A Tale of Love and Darkness, and became so engrossed in it as if he were reading a religious text. MK Yossi Sarid, who noticed how absorbed Rivlin was in the book, peered over his shoulder and said: “You’re reading the Dostoevsky of the Jewish people.” The image was so real that Rivlin grabbed Sarid, and made him sit down while reading a passage to him about Menachem Begin’s Saturday morning speeches at the now defunct Edison Theater. “You see,” Rivlin exclaimed to Sarid, “I am not reading Dostoevsky, I am reading myself. That’s me there in those small letters, I am in that book. When Amos wrote of love and darkness, he was writing about me.”

Recalling that time, Rivlin addressed Oz at his funeral, saying: “I too, Amos, like every one of your readers, felt that you weren’t only writing for me but that you were actually writing about me. But Yossi Sarid corrected me. ‘He’s writing about us, Ruvi, he’s writing about all of us.’ Which one of us was right? Both of us, it would seem. And precisely because your writing was humanistic and universal no less than it was personal and intimate, you told our story far beyond the boundaries of our own tiny Israel,” he lamented.

At the Interior Ministry Conference earlier in the day, Rivlin, together with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, launched one of the five new regional cluster groups that will create more heterogenous communities in order to mutually promote regional development and economic growth.

The project is an outcome of Rivlin‘s Hope initiative that aims at facilitating closer civic relationships and partnerships between communities that have little to do with one another. Rivlin aims to integrate them into Israeli communities rather than be divided simply by secular, orthodox, religious Zionist, haredi and Arab.

At the Calcalist conference – which was hosted by the financial supplement of Yediot Aharonot – Rivlin referred to the 3.4% deficit in the national budget and noted that Israel should enter 2019 with caution. Rivlin said that when he sat on the Knesset Finance Committee, every effort was made to ensure that the deficit never overstepped 1.7%. He noted that former MK Haim Oron (Meretz) was worried about those who had no financial resources and argued that it would not be terrible if the deficit extended to 2.4%.

While he was howled down at the time, today, Rivlin pointed out that the deficit is now 3.4% and rising.

The president acknowledged that there are working people who not only have difficulty in meeting monthly expenses, but who simply don’t have enough money to make ends meet.

“We are in the midst of fluctuating social gaps,” the president said, “and I say to all the leaders of Israel that there is no question that we have to concern ourselves with those who have no resources, but heaven help us if they become the majority over those who have to support them.”

When asked his opinion of elected and appointed officials, Rivlin said that they must be defended, because without them there is no state and no democracy.

He was also questioned about the Gideon Sa’ar law, which was aimed at preventing the president from entrusting any member of Knesset to form a government, as well as assign that task to the head of the party that reaps the most votes.

Rivlin said that he would not respond to questions on matters relating to politics.

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