Hundreds of mourners gathered to pay their last respects to former Supreme Court chief justice Miriam Naor as she was laid to rest on Tuesday in her native Jerusalem’s Sanhedria cemetery after dying earlier this week at the age of 74.
A wide range of officials attended the ceremony, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, President Isaac Herzog, current Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut, Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and Acting Knesset Speaker Eitan Ginzburg.
Bennett began his eulogy with a quote from Ecclesiastes: “Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard.”
“This is what Miriam Naor did. In the decades she served, her words were wise and clear, and they were heard calmly,” he said. “One of the most significant judges of our time.”
“Her words were wise and clear, and calmly spoken. A calm that expressed respect for those hearing it while standing in judgment, and for modesty and human love,” Bennett added.
“The breadth of her knowledge and the pleasantness of her demeanor were intertwined, making her one of the most significant judges of our time.”
Speaking ahead of Bennett, Herzog said: “A little over four years ago, when she left the Supreme Court, Miriam said the following: ‘Even today, as the decades have passed and I have served in all the courts, I am grateful that my path led me to being a judge.'”
“Now that we say goodbye to you prematurely, we can fully say that you have fulfilled your role to the end, spreading light into the distance. You will be remembered by the future generations of Israel as the queen of justice.”
Shaked, a former justice minister and a close friend of Naor, tearfully said her final goodbyes.
“Miriam Naor was a woman from Jerusalem, and her life path was in harmony with the life path of the State of Israel. She was born on the eve of the establishment of the state,” Shaked said.
“From the time we met until her very last days, we kept in touch,” she continued. “We texted each other every week, met for breakfast, even during the coronavirus pandemic. At the end of each interview I appeared in, I received from Miriam a rigorous and detailed review of my comments. The last one was last Wednesday.
“I congratulated Miriam on receiving the Worthy Citizen of Jerusalem Award and promised to come to the ceremony. There is no other person more worthy of this prize. My dear friend Miriam, I will miss you very much.”
Hayut, who replaced Naor as Supreme Court president in 2017, said the news of her passing surprised everyone.
“Dear and beloved Miriam, your death has left us saddened, and unwilling to part,” she said. “When you reached 70, you had to step down from the judiciary after decades of loyal public service, and we, your fellow judges, took solace in the fact that after your retirement, you would still continue to stand at our side and lend us your wisdom.
“Who could have imagined, then, that after only four years we would be separated from you forever? How sad that your husband Arye, your children and grandchildren, who were the joy of your life, are now left with the pain of dreams of togetherness that will not come true. We lost a titan of law and a rare person, and I lost a dear and beloved friend.”
Naor, who was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2003, served as head of the court from 2015 to 2017, when she retired.
In recent months, Naor was serving as head of the state commission of inquiry into last year’s Meron disaster, during which 45 people were killed in a crush at a religious festival, in the worst civilian disaster in Israel’s history.
During her 14-tenure on the Supreme Court, Naor oversaw some of the most significant cases in Israel’s history, including striking down legislation that sought to delay drafting ultra-Orthodox Jews into the army; barring the state from deporting African migrants against their will; allowing mini-markets in Tel Aviv to operate on Shabbat; and forcing the government to recognize private conversions to Judaism for the sake of citizenship.