jewishmememandelaAs world leaders check travelocity and expedia for flights to South Africa and the funeral for the late former South African president Nelson Mandela, Israel’s top leaders are staying in Jerusalem. Over ninety countries are sending their top leaders, and the USA is sending its president and first lady, two former presidents, as well as Oprah Winfrey. The leadership of Tibet in exile is sending his Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, however is under the weather, which is understandable for a man of his age (90); and PM Binyamin Netanyahu bowed out due to the extreme security costs that the trip would entail (two jets, an armored vehicle, perhaps $2 million). Of course, this has elicited every Jewish joke in the book, online, on the frugality of people of Jewish heritage.

After some debate and delay, Israel is sending Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein, a former Soviet Refusenik and prisoner of conscience; and MK Pnina Tamano-Shata (Yesh Atid party), the first female Ethiopian-Israeli member of Israel’s parliament. MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid party, and chairman of the Knesset’s delegation to the South African parliament), MK Hilik Bar (Labor), MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), and MK Gila Gamliel (Likud Beytenu) are attending the funeral as well. They do not require as much security as the PM.

MK Tamano-Shata said, “I am proud and excited to take part in this historic event. As someone born in Africa, I feel a great privilege in representing the State of Israel in the emotional funeral for a black hero who made history with his two hands and changed not only South Africa, but the whole world in his fight against racism and discrimination.”

Nelson Mandela, who passed away at 95 last week

Nelson Mandela, who passed away at 95 last week

PM Edelstein was able to haggle down the price of a jet by over 75% – but the delegation will be required to make a stopover and visit a gift shop, most likely in the Republic of Djibouti’s Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport (JiB). No word on whether PM Netanyahu asked one of the MK’s to bring him back wine, ice cream, or scented candles from JoBurg or Djibouti (get the South African Freesia scented ones at Ukukhanya Soweto Candles).

In related news, the president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) has called Nelson Mandela “unquestionably the most inspiring human rights advocate of our times”. Ronald S. Lauder declared: “Nelson Mandela was one of those very rare leaders who were revered not just by their own people but universally, across all political and communal divides. As a builder of bridges, he was second to none, and with his huge charisma, wisdom, democratic convictions and tremendous determination he ensured that the transition of his country from an apartheid state into a free and democratic nation was successful.” Lauder added: “While he will be greatly missed, Nelson Mandela will continue to serve as an inspiration for countless people around the word, including many Jews. He will always be remembered as one of the world’s foremost political leaders of the past century, not least because he managed to bring together the various ethnic and religious communities of his home country. South Africans have every reason to be proud of this great son their country.”

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  • All kidding aside… as we should expect, the twittersphere is aflame with anti Israel sentiment. Don’t pass up a good opportunity to kick Israel, even if it a funeral. Yes, most of the countries that are attending the funeral helped support apartheid decades ago, but we will not mention that, … instead… make the issue Israel. I see the Blumenthal, author of Goliath, is saying that Netanyahu should fly Turkish Airlines to S.A., and he will give you a copy of his book if you donate $60 to fly the PM there. And even the former chief prosecutor for the USA at Guantanamo Bay is letting his true colors show and criticizing Israel

    The point is, Israel can’t win. If the PM stays away from the funeral so that Israel isn’t the issue and it doesn’t become a reason to review Mandela’s views on Israel or Israel’s relations with old and new regimes, he will still be criticized for not attending. And if he does attend, he will be criticized.

    The posting above was done to elicit a conversation. I think the president and PM made the right choice. Since Israel will be criticized no matter what is chooses, I would send a delegation of a former prisoner of conscience and an African-born MK to represent the people of Israel. And let the PM stay home and out of the limelight.

    What do you think?

    • I think that if you wanted a conversation, you should have written an incendiary attack on Israel. That gets them going! This middle-of-the-road type of reasonable reporting just doesn’t attract crowds or passion.

      With respect to Israel always being under attack, that is a given. There is nothing it can do in any given sphere to win. The numbers of people who are ready to attack it are just too great, and there is a herd mentality out there that has taken over.

      It’s a shame and it’s unfortunate, but in this instance, the Israelis played right into the anti-Israel hostility. Netanyahu should have gone to this funeral. Considering the recent exposure of personal or even state-business expenses he has incurred as PM, he is understandably a little gun-shy, but this was an important event to attend and to show that as a leader of a free and liberal democracy, Israel is supportive of other democracies, particularly those that had to go through the hellish history of SA. It would also have been an opportunity to bump into Obama, and that’s kind of important these days. Netanyahu has a very negative international reputation, and a solid speech in this situation would have gone far in terms of combating this perception of him. And yes, this perception matters as he strives to avoid a nuclear Iran. If he’s less likable than the Iranian loony, he is also less likely to be influential.

  • Had he spoken, people would have boo’ed, and he would have been the story, not Mandela. Just as the story will morph into an anti Obama handshake with Cuba’s leader. I mean, the MC wasnt even able to control the upper tier in the rain from making too much noise.

    But I like your points