Former Knesset Speaker, Ambassador to Poland Sheva Weiss dies at 87

Sheva Weiss, a Holocaust survivor and former Knesset speaker who was on stage with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin minutes before Rabin was assassinated, died Saturday at the age of 87.

Professor Weiss was also Ambassador to Poland, where he was hailed for deepening bilateral ties between nations, and chaired the council at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem.

Weiss was born in 1935 in Borislav in Poland, which is today in Ukraine. He and several of his relatives survived the Holocaust when they went into hiding with the help of Polish and Ukrainian neighbors and friends.

“When I was six years old, I needed help. And we were helped by ordinary, but heroic people, our neighbors from Borislav. Recall that in Poland everyone who helped the Jews was killed – immediately and without trial, ”Weiss. remembered in an interview published in 2018

Weiss explained that at some stage the family hid in a cavity 60 centimeters (2 feet) wide.

“Father prepared a hiding place for us: between the wall of our store behind the cabinets and the wall of the warehouse, he built a room 60 centimeters wide, where we all hid: parents, sister, brother and me, my mother’s sister, her husband and son. There was also our neighbor Bachman,” Weiss said. “My father prepared well: he built bunks, one on top of the other, all the way to the ceiling. We had to lie down all day.”

“There we ate a slice of black and shriveled bread, one slice a day, a slice seasoned with unsanitary water. Through a gap in the north wall, I looked out at the road leading out of the woods. This is how Ukrainians passed on holidays and holidays on their way to church,” Weiss. said Yad Vashem.

“Following this route, the soldiers were leading Jewish men and women into the forest, and then we heard the sound of gunshots. Once I looked into this gap on the daily death march and among the participants of the march I saw my aunt and her children, my cousins, ”he recalled.

The Weiss’ neighbors and friends who helped the family hide were later recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem for their bravery.

In 1947, Weiss emigrated to Palestine under the British Mandate, and then to Israel, as part of the youth aliyah. According to Haaretz, he became known for his phenomenal memory and has written several puzzle books and hosted a radio show.

Weiss studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and later became a professor at the University of Haifa. He entered public political life in 1969 when he was elected to the Haifa City Council.

Weiss served on the local council until 1981, when he was elected to the Knesset on the Labor Party ticket.

Weiss served on a number of parliamentary committees over the years and was elected Speaker of the Knesset during Rabin’s second government from 1992 to 1996.

On November 4, 1995, Weiss stood on stage with Rabin and Shimon Peres to perform “Songs for Peace” at the end of a peace rally in Tel Aviv. At the end of the song, Rabin stepped off the stage and was killed by Jewish extremist Yigal Amir.

From right to left, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Miri Aloni, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Knesset Speaker Sheva Weiss sing “The Song for Peace” at the end of a rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday, November 4, 1995. Rabin was killed when he left the rally a few minutes later. (AP photo, file)

Weiss was only able to secure a low position on the Labor Party ticket before the May 1999 elections and failed to enter the Knesset.

Instead, he was appointed Israel’s envoy to Poland, a post he held from 2000 to 2004. Weiss received many awards in Poland and was awarded the country’s highest honor, the Order of the White Eagle.

While awarding Weiss with the insignia at a ceremony in Jerusalem in 2017, Polish President Andrzej Duda called Weiss is “the son of the Jewish people and the Polish land” and hailed his role in promoting closer ties between Israel and Poland.

Weiss also served as Chairman of the Board of Yad Vashem from 2000 to 2006.

Former Prime Minister Yair Lapid praised Weiss, listing his many accomplishments.

“Most of all, he was an Israeli who loved people and his homeland. With his special way he has reached many hearts, always with a pipe in his hand and an interesting story,” Lapid wrote on Twitter. “I express my deepest condolences to his family and friends. May he have a blessed memory.”

Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli said Weiss believes in re-establishing ties “with countries where they tried to destroy us.”

Weiss was an “Israeli patriot and Polish knight,” Michaeli tweeted.

Weiss was married to Dr. Esther Weiss until her death in 2005. He is survived by two children and a grandson.

His funeral will take place on Sunday at 2:30 pm at Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem.

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