Hundreds fondly recall Benzion Netanyahu at funeral

PM: "You always saw things coming, years before the realization of Herzl’s predictions, you understood he was right,”

PM Netanyahu at father Benzion's funeral 370 (photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
PM Netanyahu at father Benzion's funeral 370
(photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
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 afternoon.
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 Netanyahu remembered.
“What interested him above all was the truth,” said Ido Netanyahu. “He was never interested in fame, just the actions themselves.”
“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 again.
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 minister.
“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 Coast.
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 1976.
“The Entebbe operation was the Zionist and Jewish choice,” Peres told the mourners. “The father planted the roots, and the children grew wings.”
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.
Netanyahu 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.”