As 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.”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.”