"We are taking leave today of a courageous, wise, stubborn and perceptive man," leading Israeli author Amos Oz said in eulogizing writer, broadcaster and former cabinet minister and Knesset member Yossi Sarid, who died on Friday and was laid to rest on Sunday at Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha.
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Among the hundreds attending the funeral were a large number of politicians and media people, including Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, Meretz party chairwoman Zehava Galon, senior Meretz party officials and current and former Knesset members from the party including Chaim Oron, Ran Cohen and Yair Tsaban, as well as Knesset members from the Labor Party and the Joint Arab List.
Sarid, who died at his home in Tel Aviv of cardiac arrest at the age of 75, was a prominent figure on the Israeli left. He was a Knesset member for more than three decades, and served as education minister and environment minister, as well as a leader of the peace movement and a prominent opponent of the Israeli occupation. He was also an educator, poet and a regular Haaretz columnist.
"Yossi was first and foremost an educator," Oz said. "Over his lifetime, Sarid engaged in education in the Knesset and the cabinet, in the opposition and in government. Yossi was an educator from the outset and to the last paragraph of his last article. He was not an educator delivering lip service, as is currently customary, but rather an educator with irony, skepticism, criticism and also self-criticism. Yossi Sarid entered public life without looking after his own interests. That's not to be taken for granted currently."
Eulogizing his father, Sarid's son Yishai said his father was always worried about something and had the wellbeing of the State of Israel in his thoughts "until his last breath."
For her part, Galon, who returned from the United States to attend the funeral, praised Sarid as a model leftist leader and a modest man, recalling how he was personally moved by matters great and small. "The most unforgettable conversations were really not about the fate of the nation but rather about his family," she said, but added: "I am pained over the death of [this] leader of the left, our guide, who with all of his cynicism so loved Israel and did everything he could to make this place better. Yossi was not only a man of words, he was first and foremost a man of deeds."
Following Sarid's death, President Reuven Rivlin called him "one of the State of Israel's greatest parliamentarians and politicians. Sarid was a tough rival, challenging and true to his opinions. Even when his criticism was sharp and harsh, his rivals always treated him with great seriousness, even while completely differing with his words."
Reacting to the news of news of Sarid's death, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called him "a unique voice in Israeli politics" who had strongly held views. "Although we differed on a large number of subjects, I admired his loyalty to his path, his broad knowledge and the precise Hebrew of his mouth and pen. He will also be remembered as an outstanding parliamentarian, a longstanding member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and as an education minister who sought to advance the educational system in Israel."
Last year, in a conversation with Haaretz readers, Sarid was asked about what he considered his greatest achievement. "It's not up to me to list, like a grocer, my achievements in the government and the Knesset," he replied. "Others will testify to [my triumphs] at my funeral, if they want. I am grateful in my heart that even when I had to compromise, my compromises weren't too rotten. All in all, I tried to keep my hands and conscience clean, and sometimes I even managed [to do so]. And after 35 years of public life, this too is an accomplishment."
Sarid's last op-ed was published in Haaretz on Friday, in which he criticized the treatment Israel gives Jewish terrorists, who receive light sentences, pardons, and even lavish burials, as in the case of Baruch Goldstein. He opened his column saying "Your Jewish terrorists come first. Their homes will not be demolished, their families will not bear the blame, because your God visits the sins of the fathers on the sons and on the third and fourth generation only if they hate him; whereas your God has mercy (from ancient texts and “Torat Hamelech”) on those thousands who love him and keep his commandments. But I want you to know that this is not my God."
During the last few years, Sarid suffered from a verity of ailments, including a tumor.
"I will die in the wrong battle," he wrote in a poem. Last year, he told Tom Segev in an interview "I'm amazed each time anew that I've lived to this age. This wasn't in my plans. With my past ailments, I was sure my days were numbered. But I've lived to a ripe old age."
He is survived by his wife Dorit, their three children, Yishai, Noa, and Nadav, and his grandchildren.