Itongadol.-Shimon Peres left behind detailed plans for his funeral, expected to be the largest gathering of world leaders in Israel at least since Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral in 1995, the son-in-law and personal physician of the former president said Thursday.
Peres died early Wednesday of complications following a stroke at the age of 93. Thousands of people, including dignitaries from around the globe, are expected to attend his funeral at the Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on Friday. Peres is to be laid to rest in a plot between Rabin and another former prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir.
Dr. Rafi Walden said Peres requested that his three children speak, along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, a foreign dignitary and an Israeli cultural figure. Reports late Thursday indicated that Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and President Barack Obama would also speak, along with former president Bill Clinton. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, from the Labour Party most associated with Peres, sought but was refused permission to speak, since this was deemed a breach of protocol.
Representatives from over 70 countries are flying into Israel to attend the ceremony, Peres’s office said late Thursday.
Walden said Thursday that Peres also requested local singer David D’or sing at his funeral. Walden predicted the song would be the prayer “Avinu Malkeinu,” or “Our Father Our King.”
Jews sing the prayer on the Day of Atonement, which falls this year in mid-October.
Peres loved the song and Barbra Streisand sang it to him at a gala marking his 90th birthday.
Peres’ casket lay in state outside the Israeli parliament building on Thursday, as thousands of people lined up on a warm September day to pay their respects. The casket was covered in a blue and white Israeli flag and watched over by a small honor guard.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said some 8,000 officers were deployed to maintain order over the mourning period. He said officers were also monitoring social media for potential attackers. Many of the roads around the Knesset were closed to vehicle traffic, and the highway into Jerusalem was to be closed for several hours on Friday morning during the funeral.
President Obama will arrive Friday morning at Ben Gurion International Airport to attend the funeral and will depart immediately after the ceremony that afternoon.
Obama will head the American delegation, which includes former president Clinton, Secretary of State John Kerry, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
The president’s visit would be his second since taking office in 2008. He previously visited in 2013 for a three-day trip to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, who sat down with Obama in New York last week, was not scheduled to meet with President during the latter’s brief stay.
The prime minister was to meet with Clinton Thursday evening. After the funeral Netanyahu was slated to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Francois Hollande, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, among others.
He was forced to turn down other requests for meeting because of the onset of Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, on Friday afternoon.
In addition to Obama and Bill Clinton, Britain’s Prince Charles, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and French President Francois Hollande were expected.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will be in attendance, and Egypt confirmed Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry would attend Peres’s funeral along with Ambassador to Israel Hazem Khairat. Jordan will send Deputy Prime Minister Jawad Anani.
Lawmakers from the Joint (Arab) List said they would not attend the funeral.
“The memory of Peres among the Arab public is different from the narrative of the last few days, and I understand that complex messages such as this are are hard to hear the moment after someone’s death,” Joint List leader Ayman Odeh wrote in Hebrew on Twitter.
“Thanks to Peres, in the 90s there were two positive and important points in the peace process, while building a partnership with representatives of the Arab public, after which 90% of the Arab population voted for him,” Odeh said.