Reuma Weizman misses memorial due to illness

Reuma Weizman, the octogenarian widow of late president Ezer Weizman, was unable on Monday to attend a state memorial ceremony at the Or Akiva cemetery marking the first anniversary of his death because she was being hospitalized in the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva. Weizman felt weak, and her blood pressure had dropped. She was feeling better on Monday afternoon but continues to be monitored. At the ceremony in Or Akiva, President Moshe Katsav called Weizman the 'ultimate sabra.' What he best remembered of Weizman, Katsav said, was his charismatic personality. Weizman was Katsav's immediate predecessor as president. Others might remember him as a pilot and one of the founders of the Israel Air Force, Katsav said. And there were those, he said, who would remember Weizman as one of the architects of Israel's victory in the Six Day War or of the Likud's rise to power in the 1977 national election. Still others, said Katsav, would remember Weizman as a statesman - a man of vision who was one of the leaders on the road to peace with Egypt and a key contributor to changes in the Arab world's perception of Israel. Then, said Katsav, there were some who would remember Weizman first and foremost as the seventh president of Israel. Katsav said Weizman was one of the most influential figures in shaping the image of the new state. Uncompromising in his principles, he had also been capable of change, the president said. At first Weizman supported idea of a greater Israel, which, Katsav said, caused sharp divisions after the Six Day War and "a dispute that continues to create rifts between us to this day." Weizman's views later became more dovish. Able to move comfortably at all levels of society, Katsav said, Weizman was as much at home with taxi drivers and market vendors as with heads of state. His sharp tongue and short temper often made headlines, Katsav said, but he also knew how to charm his way into people's hearts. Weizman forged relationships with Palestinian and other Arab leaders "as if the bridge to peace began with eye contact and a captivating smile," Katsav said. Weizman asked to be buried in Or Akiva because his son Shaul, who was killed in a traffic accident in 1991, is buried there. Shaul was badly wounded at the Suez Canal during the War of Attrition and never fully recovered. His wife Rachel, who was killed with him in the accident, was originally from Or Akiva.