Netanyahu at Father's Funeral: You Showed Israel the Meaning of Commitment

Peres says Benzion Netanyahu 'used history as a guide,' to ensure that the Jews 'never give in'; Barak says Netanyahu was a 'great Zionist, who followed the path of Herzl and Jabotinsky.'

The father of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Benzion Netanyahu, was laid to rest on Monday evening at Har Hamenuhot in Jerusalem.

"You always showed us what it means to be committed to the nation and state, father," said the prime minister, "but more than that – what your is commitment to us."

Netanyahu and Benzion - Amos Ben Gershom - April 30, 2012
Amos Ben Gershom

Netanyahu continued, saying, "You were smart. You saw what was coming. Years before Hertzl's predictions came true, you understood he was right."

" Your foresight caused you, 35 years ago, to concentrate an intellectual global effort on combating terrorism," Netanyahu said, "You realized states are behind terrorism, and that it can be fought."

Netanyahu dedicated a larger portion of his eulogy to his brother Yonatan, who was killed during Operation Entebbe in Uganda.

President Shimon Peres also eulogized Benzion, saying he "was not a neutral man. He used history as a guide, and was sure that we must never give in. Peres also turned the prime minister, telling him, "you're father wrote history; you are making it."

At Monday's Likud faction meeting, ministers and members of Knesset expressed their condolences to the prime minister and his family. Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the Atzmaut faction that Benzion was a "great Zionist, who followed the path of Herzl and Jabotinsky. He was a sharp, precise and challenging person. The loss is a great one."

Benzion Netanyahu died Monday morning in his Jerusalem home at the age of 102.

He was born in Warsaw, then part of the Russian Empire, on March 25, 1910 as Benzion Milikovsky. In 1920, his family immigrated to Mandatory Palestine, where he studied at the David Yellin Teachers College and later at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

As an academic, he specialized in the field of Medieval Spanish Jewry, writing a book about Isaac Abrabanel and essays on the Spanish Inquisition and the Marranos. He developed a theory according to which the Marranos converted, not under compulsion, but out of a desire to integrate into Christian society - but were pushed into being Marranos by continued persecution due to racism, and not out of pure religious persecution, as was previously believed. Netanyahu rejected the myth that the Marranos lived double lives, claiming that the idea grew out of Inquisition documents. He later left the Israeli academy and became a professor emeritus at Cornell University.

Later, he became close with the leaders of Revisionist Zionism, Zeev Jabotinsky, Abba Achimeir and others. He spent a significant portion of his life in the United States, and became Jabotinskys personal secretary, but never got involved in Israeli politics. He gained fame for his angry prophesies before the Second World War about the fate of the Jews.

He will most likely be remembered for his great influence on the worldview of his son, Benjamin. The prime minister frequently mentions his father in speeches, speaking of what he has learned from his father, and of the experiences, both exciting and difficult, that the family has endured over the years.