Hundreds visit Or Akiva auditorium to pay last respects to Ezer Weizman

By Jonathan Lis and Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondents and Agencies Hundreds of people turned out Tuesday morning to pay their last respects to Ezer Weizman, Israel’s seventh president, who died Sunday night at age 80, as his body lay in state in the municipal auditorium in Or Akiva. A formation of F16s from the 101 Squadron was performing a memorial flyover. Weizman was commander of the 101 Squadron for eight years until 1966. The state ceremony is due to start at 4 P.M. in the plaza outside the auditorium, where President Moshe Katsav, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Air Force Commander Eliezer Shkedi and Weizman’s daughter, Michal, will deliver eulogies. At 4:45 P.M., the coffin will be placed on an army command car and the procession will pass through Hanassi street, the main thoroughfare of the town. At his request, Weizman will be interred at 5:30 in the local cemetery alongside his son Shauli and daughter-in-law Racheli, who were killed in a road accident in 1992. The former president then bought a plot alongside their graves. At the cemetery, the bier will be borne by six majors general to the grave and 16 trainer pilots will fire cannon shots in Weizman’s honor. The ministerial committee for state ceremonies decided that only 200 official guests would attend the funeral alongside the family and close friends. They will include ministers, MKs, Supreme Court justices, the chief rabbis, heads of the Israel Defense Forces and representatives of the police and the diplomatic corps. The national flag will fly at half mast Tuesday on all public buildings, and the electronic media have been asked to tone down the nature of their programming. The funeral will conclude with an airforce salute over Or Yehuda. A black Spitfire, known in the air force as Weizman’s “private plane,” on Monday performed a memorial flyover in the Negev and then landed in Tel Aviv. It will fly over Weizman’s funeral procession Tuesday before returning to its base in the south. Condolences continue to pour in from foreign dignitaries: Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter released a statement expressing his condolences on the death of Weizman. Carter said Weizman was a real Israeli hero both in times of war and of peace. He said the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, which he brokered, is a symbol of what can be achieved by a combination of statesmanship and political courage. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called Weizman’s widow, Reuma, to express his condolences. Mubarak referred to Weizman as “my dear friend” and apologized for not being able to attend the funeral, saying he had to remain in Egypt to host the visiting Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia also sent his condolences to Katsav, the Israeli people and the Weizman family. BPI-info