Nechama Rivlin, wife of President Reuven Rivlin, is being laid to rest Wednesday at Mt. Herzl cemetary after hundreds of visitors payed their respects earlier at the Jerusalem Theater plaza.
Rivlin thanked the people who came to the theater to bid his wife farewell, saying, "I don't deserve this, she did," adding he "thanked the public's treatment of such a wonderful woman."
The president also read the Kaddish prayer beside his wife's coffin, who is being buried on the date of her birth.
At the service, Rivlin eulogized Nechama, wishing her a happy birthday. "Several weeks ago in the hospital, when you could still speak and were beginning to worry, you asked that I take you home. Today, Nechama, you are home."
"I saw her in the market once," said Jerusalem resident Rinat Leshem. "Nobody was paying attention to her, she was walking with baskets. I have a feeling that someone valuable has left us. Someone who is hard to find these days. You can't easily replace such people."
"I came out of respect for a woman whose kind I would like to see more of in senior positions: Humble and down to earth," said Rami Bar Giora.
Politicians also payed their respects to Rivlin, including a delegation of Arab mayors led by MKs Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi. "I knew her well," said Odeh. "She was interested in incorporating women into the workforce. Sometimes she would call me with complaints, but she did it with a lot of grace."
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The funeral procession will be leaving the theater at 5:15 P.M. for Mt. Herzl, where she will be laid to rest. The funeral service will be held at 6:00 P.M. at G'dolei HaUma, the section of the Mt. Herzl cemetery reserved for leaders of the nation. Both the ceremony at the theater and the funeral are open to the general public at the behest of her husband, President Rivlin.
Nechama Rivlin died on Tuesday at the age of 73 from pulmonary illness. A lung transplant in March failed to relieve her condition, and she passed away at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva a day before her 74th birthday.
Aside from the Rivlin family, other speakers at her funeral on Wednesday evening will include the novelist Haim Be'er, with appearances from singers Rona Keinan and Alon Adar.
South Sudan's ambassador to Israel, Wol Mayar Ariec, said he had come to present his condolences to the people of Israel for their loss of the mother of the nation. "It is a very hard day for the family," Ariec said, "but in Africa, when a person has a family and children, he does not die but is perpetuated in history."
U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted his condolence on Wednesday: "Melania and I send our deepest condolences to President Reuven Rivlin and the entire State of Israel upon the passing of Mrs. Nechama Rivlin. Mrs. Rivlin represented her beloved country with grace and stature. We will miss her along with all those who knew her."