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Tens of Thousands of People Attend Funeral of Yigal Allon

March 3, 1980
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Yigal Allon, a statesman, soldier, pioneer and one of the top ranking leaders of the Labor Zionist movement in Israel, was said to rest today in the cemetery of Kibbutz Ginossar, the village on the shores of the Sea of Galilee where he had made his home for 46 years. The freshly dug grave was topped by a mountain of wreaths and stones brought by mourners from all parts of Israel in keeping with Jewish tradition.

Allon died Friday at Afula Hospital of a massive heart attack at the age of 61. Tens of thousands of people attended his funeral today or stood ankle deep in mud under a cold, torrential rainstorm to witness the solemn procession that wound through the mountain roads of Galilee from Afula to Ginossar. Virtually the entire leadership of Israel stood with bowed heads at the graveside — President Yitzhak Navon, who delivered one of the many eulogies; Premier Menachem Begin and his Cabinet ministers; Shimon Peres, leader of the Labor Party and former Premier Yitzhak Rabin who served under Allon when he commanded Palmach, the Haganah strike force in Israel’s war for independence 32 years ago.

Present were hundreds of former comrades in arms, fellow Knesset members, members of Kibbutz Ginossar and many other kibbutzim, Druze chieftains and Arab notables from neighboring villages, Christians from south Lebanon, headed by Maj. Sood Haddad and countless people from all parts of Israel who come to pay final tribute and offer their condolences to Allon’s wife. Ruth and his son and daughter.


Before the burial services. Allon lay in state in the communal dining hall at Ginossar. Thousands filed past his coffin, pausing silently, weeping, offering a last “Shalom Yigal.” The coffin was surrounded by an honor guard made up of soldiers of the crack Golani Brigade. Two candles flickered at its head. Gen. God Navon, the army chief chaplain, recited psalms.

Nine military commanders served as poll-bearers, some from Allon’s Palmach days, now retired or in the reserves and others on active service. They wore their uniforms and decorations, standing four on each side of the coffin and one at the head. Allon himself held the rank of general, retired.

The men who bore him to his final resting place were former Air-Force Commander Mordechai Hod; Tzvi Zamir, former chief of intelligence; Yosef Geva and Elod Peled, both field generals; Amos Horev, a former Palmach commander and later attached to General Headquarters; Avraham Botzer and Shlomo Erel, former commanders of the navy; Chaim Herzog, former intelligence chief and later Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations; and Avraham Adan, a former military attache at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

At the request of Mrs. Allon, no salvoes were fired over the grave. In his eulogy, Navon spoke of the three matters that Allon, a former Deputy Prime. Minister and former Foreign Minister, had devoted himself to in recent years. These were Israel’s quest for a just, secure peace with its neighbors, the strengthening of ties with diaspora Jewry and finding new paths for Israeli youths. Navon praised Allon as on exemplary figure, courageous, noble hearted man, a true friend and a source of inspiration for the Sabra generation of which he was a part.

Begin said, “The nation of Israel owes him a deep historical debt. He was one of the finest commanders of the War of Independence and served the nation with devotion and loyalty in many roles. His name will be revered in Israel for all generations.” Rabin recalled Allon as his Palmach commander and as a political leader. He said he had long maintained contacts with the Arabs in the administered territories and, before his death, had planned to meet with King Hussein of Jordan in London in his never ending search for peace.

Peres, Allon’s political rival in the Labor Party, spoke of him as a magnificent friend, a brilliant military mind, a leader and statesman in Israel’s times of peril and in its times of victory. Deputy Premier Yigael Yodin, described Allon as “a beautiful Israeli, symbolizing all that is good and virtuous in the Sabra.” Moshe Dayan, a perennial rival of Allon since their youth, who succeeded him as Foreign Minister, declared that his life-long relationship with Allon must not be measured by the yard stick of competition. “Basically, we were friends with a common way of life,” he said.

Knesset Speaker Yitzhak Shamir noted that despite his relative youth, Allon was one of the founding fathers of Israel’s independence and freedom. Victor Shem-Tov, Secretary General of Mapam, said “Allon collapsed on the bridge of the Labor ship. He left us when we needed him more than ever.”


Messages of condolences and sorrow poured in from all over the world from heads of governments, diplomats and military commanders. One of the first came from President Anwar Sadat of Egypt. His cable said: “I received with great sorrow the news of the passing away of Yigal Allon, one of Israel’s leaders who contributed to the peace process through his sincere efforts that helped complete the first step toward peace, namely the agreement on the disengagement of troops in Sinai in 1974 and 1975.”

In Washington, the death of Allon was marked at the State Department “with sadness and a feeling of loss.” Department spokesman Hodding Carter read a prepared statement which described Allon as “one of Israel’s great leaders” and added: “From the days of Israel’s struggle for independence, Mr. Allon’s. devotion to his country has been exceeded only by his hope for a day when Israel could live in peace with all its neighbors.”

Sen. Jacob Havits (R.NY) said Allon was “a high symbol of Israel’s intrepid courage and dedication to the ideal of the Jewish national home. His legendary services to Israel are equaled only by his extraordinary devotion to cultivating the best in U.S.-Israel relations.”

Bernard Weisberg, executive vice president of the Labor Zionist Alliance, said Allon’s death marks the passing of “a giant among the leaders of Israel. He was not only a spokesman for the labor movement of Israel but for free labor in the world. He was a defender of Israel in the true and real sense of the word and was also a man of peace.”

In New York, Richard Maass, president of the American Jewish Committee, said “Israel’s current strength and stability is a tribute” to Allon, “for he was both one of the heroes of her War of Independence and one of the architects of her statehood in the years since.” Pioneer Women, in a statement, called Allon “hero of the Palmach, leader of our movement and cherished friend.” In Washington, Jack Spitzer, B’nai B’rith president,- said Allon had “earned the respect and admission” of both his countrymen and people around the world — “Jew and non Jew alike.”

In London, Sir Harold Wilson, the former British Labor Prime Minister, said Allon was “not only one of the founders and leaders of his party but the founder of modern Israel …. as a minister, particularly dealing with foreign affairs and defense, Mr. Allon went to great lengths to establish good relations with those Arab neighbors willing to join him in his task, and his memory will be respected through all the generations of Israelis fighting for their right to exist in the Jewish national home.”


Allon had a medical history that indicated heart trouble. He was hospitalized in 1973 for what the doctors diagnosed as cardiac spasms. On his sixth day in the hospital he suffered what was described as a mild heart attack but recovered satisfactorily and was discharged. He underwent surgery in Montreal in 1976 for a facial disorder. In 1978 he was hospitalized at the Sheba Medical Center for a suspected heart attack. His doctors said later that it was a false alarm.

In recent months he maintained a full schedule of activities and when asked about his health, he told friends “the doctors say I’m fit.” But he was obviously ill last Thursday when he attended a dinner given by Defense Minister Ezer Weizman in honor of the visiting Egyptian Defense Minister Kamal Hassan Ali. “I told my wife, on arriving home, that Allon was not himself,” Weizman said later. “He did not eat the main course and when I suggested that he leave early, Allon did not protest. Apparently he already felt sick but did not want others to see it. Yet I observed it, my wife did and even Mrs. Ali did.”

Ali was one of the last people to see Allon alive. He expressed deep sorrow Friday on learning of his death. Allon apparently did not return home after leaving the dinner for Ali. He spent two hours meeting with scientists of the Weizmann institute for Science. It was after that meeting that he told his wife he was feeling ill. An ambulance was called to Kibbutz Ginossar. Although he complained of chest pains, Allon refused a stretcher and climbed unaided into the ambulance which took him to the Afula Hospital.

An electro-cardiogram gave no indication of trouble but the doctors placed Allon in an intensive care unit as a precautionary measure Thursday night. On Friday morning, while the physicians-were preparing him for further tests, he suffered a massive heart attack and died. At Allon’s grave today, his son, Yifteh, recited the Kaddish. The elements provided a gloomy backdrop. The Sea of Galilee that Allon had loved dearly, was no longer blue but store gray, its normally placid waters whipped by gales of rain and hail into high waves and foaming breakers. Across that bleak expanse, the Golan Heights and Mt. Hermon were shrouded in snow.

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