The funeral of Nechama Rivlin

June 6, 2019 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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People came to the Jerusalem Theater to pay their last respects to Nechama Rivlin ז”ל before her burial on Mount Herzl where President Reuven Rivlin delivered the eulogy.

Last moments Photo: Amos Ben-Gershon (GPO)

Nechama Rivlin’s coffin was placed in the Jerusalem Theatre yesterday where people paid their last respects before her burial on Mount Herzl.

Her coffin was placed at the Jerusalem Theater because of her great love for the arts, particularly in Jerusalem, and in order to allow the general public to visit.

Among those who wished to express their condolences were Knesset members, ambassadors, mayors and artists. Many people who did not know Nechama personally also came, left flowers, lit a candle and paid their respects. The president and his family also came to spend time with Nechama and to thank the many people who came for their kindness.

At the Leaders of the Nation section of Mount Herzl cemetery, eulogies were delivered by President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin, their daughter Anat Rivlin, and poet and writer Haim Be’er, Nechama’s close friend.

Among those who attended the funeral were Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Speaker of the Knesset Yuli (Yoel) Edelstein, Deputy President of the Supreme Court Judge Hanan Melcer, IDF Chief of Staff Lt-Gen Aviv Cochavi, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, acting Commissioner of Police Moti Cohen, current and former ministers and members of the Knesset, ambassadors from around the world, religious leaders from the Christian, Muslim, Druze communities in Israel, artists, writers and poets.

The ceremony was led by Cantor Shai Abramson and Rabbi Benny Lau, who read the following beautiful piece: “Jerusalem worked its magic on a young student from Moshav Herut in the Sharon area. All her senses were dedicated to this magical city and its people. Two years ago, Nechama wrote a short article about Psalm 122 on the website of the 929 initiative, in which she said, ‘I was not born in Jerusalem and I did not grow up here.

But I have lived in Jerusalem longer than anywhere else. I came here at the age of 19, to be a student at the Hebrew University. Along the way, I built a home with Ruvi, a Jerusalemite son of Jerusalemites. Still, every time I see Jerusalem laid out before me at the entry to the city, I can feel the biblical passage ‘Our feet shall stand at thy gates, O Jerusalem’. I love to walk the streets of Jerusalem, with their heart and soul. Sometimes, I feel like the buildings tell a story. My Jerusalem is that of the hawkers at Machane Yehuda market, some of whom I know by name, of the Hebrew University, the museums, the holy places, the artists’ houses, and my home.’

Thus, Nechama became one of the jewels of Jerusalem, on the tastes of the market, the dancers at the Gerard Behar Center, the Israel Museum and the Smadar Cinema. But above all, she loved poetry and literature.”

As part of the ceremony, singer Rona Keinan performed her song ‘Mabul’ and Alon Eder sang his song ‘Ahuvati Sheli Livnat Tzavar’.

President Rivlin’s eulogy for his wife, Nechama:

Photo: Kobi Gideon, (GPO)

“Nechama. My Nechama. Our Ima. I got up this morning. You know I could not sleep. I looked at the date, so familiar. 5th of June. Happy birthday, sweetheart. A sad birthday. A few weeks ago, in the hospital, when you were still able to say what was on your mind, and you were already worried, you asked me to bring you home. Today, Nechama, you have come home. So close to our house, here across the hill. Close to the plants you cultivated. Close to the view. Near the forest – ‘the herb store,’ you called it – collecting moss, thyme and even mushrooms. Close by are the paths and the roads we loved and walked. You were born in the days after the war, World War II. Your parents, pioneers from Ukraine, among the founders of Moshav Herut in Tel Mond, who lost their entire family in the cursed Holocaust, saw in you their hope, their comfort.

Nechama, comfort. That’s what they called you. You were a village girl, a child of nature, a moshavnik, a woman of the land. When we sang at home, ‘we are both from the same village,’ we knew that only you came from the village in our house. You tilled, you fertilized, you watered, you milked the cows in the morning, collected the eggs from the chicken coop, and then went to school. Your father, Menachem Shulman, died when you were only five years old. And your mother, Drora (Keila), remained alone on the farm, with you and Varda, and later our brother-in-law Chaim, to help her. ‘My mother, you said, ‘worked hard, and fought like a lion for the right to work the land.’

When I met you, I sometimes thought that I had done you an injustice, that I might be too urban, too much of a Jerusalemite. I learned very quickly from you that you can uncover the earth in Jerusalem, ride horses, hoe the land, raise vegetables in season! Only in season and herbs in the garden. At the University in Jerusalem, you studied agriculture, biology and zoology, and worked at the Zoological and Biological Institute. Slowly, you grew roots in Jerusalem. You were more Jerusalemite than Jerusalemites, and more Rivlin than the Rivlins. Your Jerusalem kugel, sweet and peppery at the same time, was better than the kugel of Shaarei Chesed. And from my mother, you learned the recipe for brojinis, spicy eggplants, which were my favorite food. Then one day, after years as a child of nature, a woman of natural science, you decided to study art. Your rich soul knew no rest. The art world opened up to you. Every time we traveled overseas, you already knew where you wanted to go, which museum you cannot miss, what artwork you have to see. Sometimes you tried to save me from the boring ceremonies and the official receptions and drag me to the nearby museum, saying ‘you must see this,’ and took me and explained.

Sometimes after an exhausting day of breathing difficulties, I saw you getting dressed, getting ready to go out. Where to, Ima’le, I would ask? And the answer: there’s a dance show today at Suzanne Dalal that I absolutely refuse to miss. Because even when it was hard, the art, the flowers, the movies at the Cinematheque, the exhibitions at the Museum on the Seam gave you strength. They were the essence of life for you. And most of all you loved poetry. You read books by male poets, but you were mostly interested in what women poets wrote. Sometimes you would force me to listen. You would sit me next to you when you read to me, from a newspaper clipping, or from a small book. You called me and did not give up, and thank you for not giving up. Thank you for insisting for many years, for widening my heart and deepening my soul. You taught me a love that was clear-sighted, direct and intelligent, but also a love that knew to cut corners and was compassionate. And most of all, like everything you did, like everything you said, to be real. Always real.

You never wanted to be in the limelight, but you understood that as the president’s wife you had a role, and you accepted it for yourself. And yet you decided not be “the president’s wife,” but to sow, water and raise the things that really need such dedicated and knowledgeable care. You chose to support children with special educational needs. To always stand by women, without being a vocal feminist. To foster artists and the arts. You saw Arabs and Jews first of all as people, but there was no greater Zionist than you. And with your choices and your actions the garden of the people who loved you flourished. The whole country is full of those who love you.

How much they loved you, Nechama. How much did they ask how you were doing, and wished you well and prayed for your recovery all these months. How many people sent us messages of strength and their embraces of you. Nechama, yesterday I looked at the books you left next to the bed, some of them bookmarked, others with a popsicle stick in them. You went to sleep next to Novokov’s “Lolita” and Agi Mishol’s “Angel of the Room”. On the shelf was “Back from Emek Refaim” by Haim Be’er, alongside Ami Rubinger’s “Pishpesh Mitlabesh (the flea gets dressed)”, “Tishrin” by Ayman Sicksek and Dan Tsalka’s “A Thousand Hearts.” And in Amos’s latest book, our beloved Amos Oz, a popsicle stick shows you read it all and got to the last chapter, entitled: “The traffic lights have been changing for a long time without us.” But what traffic light can change without you?

In recent months, I have been asked me what kind of a mother you are, and I answered that you are the kind of mother that for four months, her children and their spouses did not leave her side. They did not leave you alone for a moment. That is the kind of mother you were, the kind of grandmother. Rivi and Tomer, Anat and Gadi, Ran and Einat, thank you for being there for Ima. Matan, Ziv, Shay, Karni, Maya, Daniela and Yahav, Savta loved you forever, and she will continue to love you, even from above. Thank you all for being my family. And thank you to all the citizens through whose eyes and words and presence the light of our Nechama is shining again and again, like a thousand suns.

And to you, Nechama, my wife, my love, I find it difficult to believe that these are words of farewell. I am sure I will look for you at night, and in the days too. Thank you, Nechama, for love, for your partnership, for family, for being always with me, for the supportive hand and the listening heart, for the humour and the sharp thought, and for giving me the privilege to be the husband of the president’s wife. ‘Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.’ Rest in peace.”

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