Former Meretz MK Ilan Gilon passes away at 65

Gilon served as an MK for nearly 15 years altogether, in six different Knesset assemblies.

Former MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) speaks during a recent protest calling for an increase in disability benefits. (photo credit: ANAT VARDIMON)
Former MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) speaks during a recent protest calling for an increase in disability benefits.
(photo credit: ANAT VARDIMON)

Former Meretz MK Ilan Gilon, who served 15 years in the Knesset, died on Sunday at age 65.

Earlier, Gilon headed the youth movement of Mapam, the former socialist party, and was deputy mayor of Ashdod.

Gilon was born in Romania and made aliyah with his family at age 9. He was wheelchair-bound due to polio he suffered in childhood.

“The man with the largest Red heart out there died on May 1,” Gilon’s family said in a statement, referring to the annual International Workers Day.

“The great leader of workers who believed in peace and social justice was a big Zionist. We are very sorry as a family and as Israelis,” the family said.

“Ilan. My man, the [man of the] family and of so many other people. The person with the largest and most loving heart has left our world,” his wife Yehudit Gilon wrote on Facebook.

“Meretz mourns the premature departure of former MK Ilan Gilon, who was one of the pillars of the Israeli Left. A groundbreaking leader, who acted without respite in the Knesset, on the streets and in hundreds of protests for society’s weakest members,” Meretz said in a statement.

“He was the force behind raising handicap benefits and Israel’s social legislation. He was a man of principles, a fighter and a friend. Justice, equality, peace and the lives of his fellow men  are his legacy. We will continue fighting for the values that he instilled in Meretz during the years he was active,” the party said.

Politicians across the spectrum and public figures eulogized Gilon, citing his unwavering values, humor, kindness and humility.

“Ilan Gilon, a beloved friend, public servant, and determined social warrior tragically left us this morning,” President Isaac Herzog wrote on Twitter. “He was one of the finest public emissaries we have known. I shall always remember him as an ethical and faithful social leader, loyal to his path and beloved by his peers, who overcame a disability and every impediment. May his memory be a blessing,” Herzog wrote.

“Ilan Gilon, one of the most diligent members the Knesset has ever known and an honest man with a giant heart, passed away this morning prematurely,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement. “He had worked hard in order to solve individual problems of citizens who reached out to his office. He used to say, ‘A Knesset member should make a decision as if he was old, poor and sick, and not as if he was young, rich and healthy,” Bennett said.

“A tear for Ilan Gilon,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter. “One of the best among us, a public servant, an ideologue, straight as a ruler and smart and also funny. They are no longer made like this. May his memory be a blessing.”

“My wife Sarah and I are deeply saddened by the passing of former MK Ilan Gilon, and send our condolences to his family,” opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu wrote on Twitter.

“The humanity that radiated from him transcended political controversy. He gave it a symbolic expression when he sent us a jar of jam he made on the occasion of Avner winning the Bible quiz,” Netanyahu wrote. “Although we were political rivals we maintained a cordial relationship over the years. Although we did not agree on many things, I could always see that his vigorous activity was done out of complete faith in the righteousness of his way–and for that I greatly appreciated him. I will miss him. May his memory be a blessing,” Netanyahu wrote.

“Ilan is gone. A man of principles, a warrior, and most importantly – a mentsch,” Meretz head and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz wrote on Twitter. “This is also what he considered most important – to be a human being. Beloved Ilan, you have been my partner and friend for many years. Can’t believe you are gone. Ilan also represents a warm family – Jewish, the children, the grandchildren, and a million friends. Now [it is] very painful. On behalf of Meretz, I send you my condolences and a big hug,” Horowitz wrote.

The funeral will take place on Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the “Menucha Nechona Likulam” cemetery in Kfar Saba.