Rivlin plunges headfirst into presidential duties
Rivlin sworn in as president, July 23. Photo: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POSTPresident Reuven Rivlin did not give himself time to adjust to his new role, but instantly plunged into presidential duties taking over where his predecessor President Shimon Peres left off.
During his last days in office, Peres made a point of visiting bereaved families of soldiers who fell in battle in Gaza, and Rivlin began doing the same on Friday morning following his inauguration on Thursday night.
Rivlin who at the outset of his inauguration address had sent wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded and had identified with the grief of families and friends of those who lost their lives in defense of the nation, made it clear to Israel’s enemies that they had not broken Israel’s spirit. “By gathering here, today, we are declaring our determination to continue to defend the operation of our democratic institutions and the character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, even in a period of emergency, war and terrorism,” he declared.
Rivlin traveled north from his home in Jerusalem to the family of 2nd Lt. Bar Rahav in Ramat Yishai. From there he continued to the family of St.Sgt.Oren Simcha Noach in Hoshaya, then to Sde Atzmon to the family of St. Sgt.Oz Mendelovich and lastly for the day to Nahariya to the family of Sgt. Adar Barsano.
Rivlin is a much more emotionally expressive person than Peres and more visibly sensitive. Dealing with so much grief in such a short time was a massive toll on him.
It was not easy he said at the Rahav home to begin his new role going from place to place to offer his condolences, but, he added, “everything in Israel starts with difficulty. Nothing comes easily. This is the reality of the neighborhood in which Israel exists”.
Rivlin said after visiting the families that he could see the pain and the mourning that etched their faces and that he could understand their frustrations. The son of every family is precious, he said, but to his parents he is the most outstanding soldier of all.
Nonetheless said Rivlin, all the families understood that their son had fallen on the altar of national security, because in the eyes of the enemy Israel is still not something that can be taken for granted., and for this Israel pays a heavy price.
Not surprisingly, according to people close to Peres, the ninth president kept working till almost the last minute in office, spending much of Thursday morning on his farewell address, attending a military briefing, meeting with various officials and receiving visitors who wanted to personally thank him for his service to the state.
He also spent time sending post cards to the thirteen agents in his security detail, who had received emergency call up notices from the army and were in Gaza..
He wrote to them saying that he was proud of them for the dedicated way in which they had protected him over the past seven years, and said that now they had been called not to protect him alone, but to defend the state. All the members of his personal security detail are combat officers of elite units in the Israel Defense Forces.
Rivlin’s director general Harel Tubi who is taking over from Peres’s director general Efrat Duvdevani, was also called into reserve duty.
Peres assembled those who had not been called up to thank them personally for having taken such devoted care for his safety, and said that they had looked after him so well that he felt as if they were his extended family.
To those who were about to embark on reserve duty Peres told them that they had an important mission to carry out.
In a farewell letter that Peres received from Raz Tzur, the head of his security team, Tzur wrote that on the Saturday night prior to Operation Preventive Edge, he had received a phone call at 2 a.m. from the security guard assigned to the president’s living quarters, saying that all the lights in the president’s apartment were on and that Peres was very tense and pacing up and down, unable to sleep.
It was only a few hours later that Tzur understood the cause of the president’s disquiet. Tzur had received the phone call just as the IAF launched its air strike on Gaza. Peres had understood that during the night many soldiers were in danger of being injured or even killed, and this was the cause of his unrest. “On that day I understood the meaning of a true leader” wrote Tzur.