Farewell to Lova
Labor politician Arie 'Lova' Eliav, who died this week, was successful because of his moral clarity.
This article is part of a special edition of Haaretz, to mark Israel's book week.
I haven't come to eulogize you today, Lova, but to thank you because your efforts over so many years gave us value and strength. A decidedly political person like you was in the thick of ideological disputes and fought for his opinion like a lone horseman. Yet throughout all those years of political isolation you remained loved and admired by so many. So we have proof that Israeli society has not lost its ability to distinguish between good and evil. And for that we are here to thank you.
Your character was a model for many and a clear and responsible guide in the twists and troubles of the times. As a politician, you behaved like a true intellectual - courageously, prescient and using a comprehensive philosophy to which your many books give rich literary expression.
But as an intellectual, unlike many people who shared your opinions and were pushed to the margins of politics, you did not shut yourself into an ivory tower of bitterness and wrathful prophecy. Even in your political isolation you did not give up getting things done.
And you brought your rich experience as someone who had worked on the ground - a builder of cities, a commander of an illegal immigrants' ship, a man of rescue missions to disaster-stricken areas, a man of immigrant absorption. There was the tremendous project of the youth village in Nitzana as well. The peace village on the Egyptian border.
And because in a rare way you combined the courage of the ideological spirit with acts of volunteering and creativity nearly unparalleled in the State of Israel, the battalions standing behind you were immeasurably larger and more important for you than the voters. And they will remain faithful to your efforts for many years after so many politicians are forgotten as though they had never existed.
We always wondered: Where did you get your astonishing ability to predict diplomatic, political and social processes many years before they occurred? Where did you get the ability to predict decades ago in your book "Between Hammer and Sickle" the awakening of Jewish consciousness among the Jews of the Soviet Union, the Jews of silence, and the tremendous potential for immigration to Israel that would erupt?
Where did you get the ability, after the Six-Day War, to identify the Palestinian problem in all its severity and point out ways to solve it? Indeed, what sounded provocative and hallucinatory coming from you and your friends back then has become the general consensus.
Where did you get the ability to foresee the Yom Kippur War several months before it broke out, despite the overweening security confidence of the government of Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan?
How did you know in advance the folly of building the settlements in northern Sinai, which in the central committee you called "the fools and the scorpions?" The government of Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon razed these settlements 10 years after they were built in the wake of the peace with Egypt.
After all, you had no information your colleagues on the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee didn't have, you were not a historian of the Middle East and you were not an expert with special military training. Where did you get your remarkable prophetic ability that proved itself so many times?
In my opinion there was one single source - the moral clarity of your soul, which knew how to distinguish between good and evil. Nor did you behave meekly toward the Palestinians; your unobsequious moral clarity had a great influence on them as well.
You worked according to two simple rules. 1 ) Do not do unto others what is hateful unto you. 2 ) A person can always change and improve. So you never lost your optimism.
I remember the second or third day of the Yom Kippur War when the situation on the front was so grave and I asked you what was going to happen. You answered: In a little while the postmen, clerks, teachers, shopkeepers and farmers will arrive at the front, and they will tilt the balance. You did not say the reserves, you discussed the human begins behind the uniforms.
Three weeks ago, early on a Saturday morning, knowing your grave condition, I came to Ichilov Hospital to say goodbye to you. You were lying alone in a room, surrounded by medical equipment, in the twilight of your consciousness. Your eyes were closed, and even though I called your name you did not open them.
I bade you farewell in my heart, but before I left the hospital, which was very tranquil at that hour, I went to the nurses' station to say a few words about you. They knew your name and had perhaps heard a few things about you, but I felt a need to say something more to strengthen them in their blessed work. This is a wonderful man, believe me, he is one of the most wonderful people the State of Israel has ever had, I said.
They listened quietly, but I was still not certain whether they were really convinced that the patient lying unconscious there was such a rare and special person. So I addded another detail: You should know that when Lova Eliav was a Knesset member, he volunteered at Hadassah University Hospital as a simple orderly. Their faces lit up, they were persuaded, and I believe they were with you at your death with a special tenderness.
The author's most recent novel is "Late Divorce," published in Hebrew this year. His most recent novel available in English is "Friendly Fire: A Duet," published in translation in 2008.