President: 'Today, Nechama, you came home'

‘The entire country loves you’: Nechama Rivlin laid to rest at Mount Herzl

Eulogizing his wife, President Rivlin thanks her for allowing him to be ‘the partner of the president of Israel’s wife’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

טקס לוויתה של נחמה ריבלין ז"ל בחלקת גדולי האומה, הר הרצל

Posted by ‎Reuven Ruvi Rivlin - ראובן רובי ריבלין‎ on Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Israel’s First Lady Nechama Rivlin was laid to rest in a state funeral on Wednesday evening at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl national cemetery. She was eulogized by her husband, President Reuven Rivlin, who began his remarks by wishing his wife a happy 74th birthday.

“My Nechama, our mother. I got up this morning — you know that I didn’t manage to sleep — I looked at the date that is so familiar [to me] — June 5. Happy birthday, my dear. Sad birthday,” the president said.

Periodically dabbing at his nose with a handkerchief, the president recounted parts of his wife’s life story, recalling her love of nature and farming.

“When I met you, I thought I was doing you an injustice, that maybe I’m too urban,” said the longtime Jerusalem resident, looking longingly at his wife’s resting place.

President Reuven Rivlin (2nd-R), accompanied by his children, recites the Mourner’s Kaddish for his wife Nechama during her funeral at Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem on June 5, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“But you, you became more of a Jerusalemite than Jerusalem natives,” he said of Nechama, who hailed from the central agricultural village of Herut, and went on to compliment his wife’s Yerushalmi kugel.

“You never wanted to be in the limelight, but you understood that as the president’s wife you had a role to fill,” Rivlin continued. “You chose to support children with special needs, to stand alongside women without being a demonstrative feminist.”

Rivlin thanked his children and grandchildren, who he said did not leave his wife’s bedside “for one moment” over the last several months. The president added that it was testament to the kind of mother and grandmother that she had been.

“Jews and Arabs. Arabs and Jews, in your eyes were first and foremost people,” he said, adding that at the same time, nobody had been a more devout Zionist than she.

“The entire country loves you,” Rivlin said between tears.

“To you, Nechama, my wife, to you Nechama, my love, I’m having a hard time accepting that these are my parting words… Thank you for being with me…thank you for allowing me to be the partner of the president of Israel’s wife” he said.

Rivlin recalled how, when he visited his wife at the hospital a few weeks ago, she asked to come home.

“Today, Nechama, you came home,” he said.

The funeral of Nechama Rivlin, wife of Israeli president Reuven Rivlin at Mount Herzl cemetery on June 5, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The First Lady was eulogized earlier Wednesday by US President Donald Trump, who tweeted that she had represented her country “with grace and stature.”

Prior to the funeral, her coffin was placed at the Jerusalem Theater from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m.

At the request of the Rivlin family, the public had been invited to both pay its respects at the theater and attend the funeral.

The funeral service was led by Rabbi Benny Lau, with the El Male Rachamim prayer sung by IDF chief cantor Shai Abramson, musical performances by Rona Kenan and Alon Eder, and additional eulogies from the Rivlins’ daughter Anat and author Haim Be’er.

President Reuven Rivlin and his wife, Nechama Rivlin. (GPO)

On Thursday and Friday, the president and his family will receive condolence visits at his official residence in Jerusalem as part of the traditional Shiva mourning period.

Rivlin died on the eve of her 74th birthday at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, where she was being treated after relapsing following a lung transplant.

She had worked for many years as a researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, until her retirement in 2007, at which point her lung condition was discovered.

The Rivlins had been married since 1971. In an archive television interview that has been screened frequently in the past day, President Rivlin was asked what he would most like to have written on his gravestone: “Me? That I was Nechama’s husband,” he said simply.

Soft-spoken and mild-mannered, Rivlin was eulogized Tuesday by Israeli politicians from across the political spectrum. She was also mourned by foreign diplomats stationed in Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C), his wife Sara (L) and Knesset Chairman Yuli Edelstein (R) at the funeral of Nechama Rivlin at Mount Herzl cemetery on June 5, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed
Register for free
and continue reading
Registering also lets you comment on articles and helps us improve your experience. It takes just a few seconds.
Already registered? Enter your email to sign in.
Please use the following structure: [email protected]
Or Continue with
By registering you agree to the terms and conditions. Once registered, you’ll receive our Daily Edition email for free.
Register to continue
Or Continue with
Log in to continue
Sign in or Register
Or Continue with
check your email
Check your email
We sent an email to you at .
It has a link that will sign you in.