Abba Eban

The father of Israeli diplomacy.

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Excerpted with permission from The Jerusalem Post, this article was written on the occasion of Abba Eban’s death in 2002.

Abba Eban, the father of Israeli statesmanship, former foreign minister and ambassador to the United States and United Nations, died on November 17, 2002. As diplomat and author, he was throughout his long and brilliant career the voice of Israel, a profound interpreter of our national character and history.

Man of Peace

Calling Eban "one of the great statesmen of the 20th century," then MK Shimon Peres described him as an "extraordinary person who showed the world we are an extraordinary nation." Peres, who worked with Eban for decades, called him "a man of peace who paved the way for peace. When Israel was attacked on all sides, he gave the message of hope for different relations with the Arab world and the Palestinians. He was Israel's voice in its most difficult hours, and explained Israel's yearning for peace. He served his people honorably, and his life will be remembered as one of the important chapters in Israel's history."

Then Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commented that "With his prodigious intellect and renowned eloquence, Abba Eban was not only one of Israel's finest diplomats, but also was one of the great diplomats of his era. He was a powerful advocate for the Jewish State and for the rights of the Jewish People. Eban set the standard for defending Israel in the courts of world opinion. During many difficult periods, his voice was a stirring reminder of the justice of the Zionist cause and Israel's eternal hope to live in peace with its neighbors. Through years of dedicated service, he laid the foundations for Israel's foreign service and proved that even though we are a small nation, our moral voice can be heard loud and clear across the world."

Eban was famous for his eloquent rhetoric, both in speech and writing, in Hebrew, English, and Arabic. He knew many other languages and had a phenomenal memory. He was, above all, an astute political analyst and a visionary, deeply devoted to the cause of Israel and the Jewish people.

A Born Zionist

Abba (Aubrey) Eban was born in Capetown, South Africa, on February 2, 1915, a son of Abraham and Alida Sachs-Eban. He was brought to England in infancy. Eban's mother worked as secretary-translator to Zionist leaders Chaim Weizmann and Nahum Sokolow, which provided her son with a loving background of historic Zionism. Eban also received a thorough Hebrew and English education and continued his studies in Oriental languages and classics at Cambridge University.

In his first year at university, he edited the Young Zionist journal and he was the first chairman of the Cambridge University Jewish Society. Eban received his M.A. from Queens College, and was appointed lecturer in Arabic and Oriental Studies as Brown Research Fellow in Arabic, Hebrew, and Persian at Pembroke College.

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Alexander Zvielli

Alexander Zvielli is a veteran journalist with the Jerusalem Post.