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Journalist, Rabin aide Haber remembered as model of unity in polarized times

Top political adviser and writer who announced PM’s assassination is eulogized at funeral for his willingness to help anyone who asked, inspiring next generation of reporters

Former prime minister Ehud Barak (2nd right) eulogizes Eitan Haber, Tel Aviv, October 13, 2020 (Screen grab/Ynet)
Former prime minister Ehud Barak (2nd right) eulogizes Eitan Haber, Tel Aviv, October 13, 2020 (Screen grab/Ynet)

Eitan Haber, a former journalist and the closest political aide to slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, was buried in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, six days after his death.

Haber died Wednesday at the age of 80 after battling a serious illness for three years. He was the official who famously issued a tearful announcement of Rabin’s death by assassination on the night of November 4, 1995.

The funeral, held in accordance with coronavirus restrictions, was attended by a small number of relatives and friends including former prime minister Ehud Barak and former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and the daughter of his former boss, Dalia Rabin-Pelossof.

“We are saying goodbye to Eitan, a man who left a mark on everyone he happened upon,” said Barak, who served under Rabin. “Those who were worldly and those who were not, families hit by terror and the heartbroken whose loved ones were taken abruptly.”

Eitan Haber, standing outside Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, announces the death of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, November 4, 1995. (AP PHOTO/Eyal Warshavsky)

“A humble man, without sharp elbows, with a calm tone that was never raised,” Barak said, according to the Ynet news site. “In these days of incitement and polarization, we should have adhered to the example of Eitan’s actions.”

Lau also touched on the need for national unity and to take the relationship of Rabin and Haber as an example.

“A few days since the bad news came and we are engrossed in memories,” Lau said.

“Twenty-five years have passed [since Rabin’s assassination],” Lau said. “We need to learn today, especially at a time when the divisions are deep and the lava is bubbling, we need to learn from this incredible pairing. Despite the division, despite the different education, when there is a goal, the Jewish people and the Land of Israel will find the golden path to eternity.”

Haber’s son Ilan talked of how his father helped anyone who asked for his assistance, while he raised his two children following the death of their mother.

Former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau eulogizes Eitan Haber, Tel Aviv, October 13, 2020 (Screen grab/Ynet)

“Dad, I’m not a man of words like you, but I will try. Thirty-five years ago mom left us and we were a small family all these years. You served as a pillar on which Michal and I relied. We always knew you would be there for us, even when you were absent for days and nights of intense work. We knew there were people who cared for us, and in a sense you also served as our mother,” he said.

“We shared you with the citizens of their country as you dedicated much of your life,” he said. “You are the man who helped the common people. The list of people you helped — small help or something really lifesaving — is long and spread across the country and even abroad. I witnessed your attempts to help people in need. Their relatives came to our home, called in the middle of the night and you did just about everything you could to help in times of need. All your life you cared for others more than you cared for yourself.”

Eitan Haber (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

Neta Livneh, editor of Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth, told of the importance of Haber’s work, not only for the Israeli public but also for the next generation of reporters.

“Eitan was not a military reporter, he was the military reporter. A role model and inspiration for generations of journalists,” Livneh said. “Eitan is the man who was there in all the historical moments, serving as eyes for millions of Israelis who eagerly read his words. We were privileged to edit and read, and always learn.”

Haber, who met Rabin when working as a journalist in the Israel Defense Forces, was a regular columnist for Yedioth Ahronoth.

In 1985, he was appointed Rabin’s communications adviser when Rabin served as defense minister in the Likud and Labor unity government. Haber stepped down with Rabin in 1990, and returned to be his bureau chief after the Labor election victory in the 1992 election.

Haber was known as a master communicator and wrote many of Rabin’s most memorable speeches, including, notably, his “Soldier of Peace” speech delivered to the US Congress in 1994.

Rabin, who together with Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat, received the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize, was assassinated by right-wing extremist Yigal Amir on November 4, 1995, at the end of a peace rally in Tel Aviv. Haber was tasked with making the government’s official announcement of Rabin’s death that night.

Eitan Haber, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s aide, reads from the blood-covered “Song of Peace” that the assassinated leader sang at the peace march and still carried in his pocket when he was slain, at the funeral ceremony in Jerusalem, November 6, 1995. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

“The government of Israel announces in dismay, in great sadness, and in deep sorrow, the death of prime minister and minister of defense Yitzhak Rabin, who was murdered by an assassin, tonight in Tel Aviv,” Haber said, in anguished but firm tones, as he emerged from Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.

At Rabin’s funeral, Haber read from the blood-covered page carrying the words of the “Song of Peace” that the assassinated leader had sung at the peace rally and was carrying in his pocket when he was shot.

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