Funeral of the late Mayor Edward Koch

Address by Amb. Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel
Monday, February 4, 2013 at Temple Emanu-El

Mrs. Thaler, President Clinton, Mayor Bloomberg, family and friends,

I stand here today, conveying these heartfelt condolences, not only on behalf of the President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, and the Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanhayu, but on behalf of all the people of Israel.

While President Peres and Prime Minister Netanyahu, and even myself, had the pleasure of knowing Ed Koch personally, I stand here on behalf of our entire country who felt as if they did as well.  He was one of us.

We owe Ed Koch a great debt of gratitude for his long-standing support, friendship, unconditional love and commitment to the Zionist movement and to the Jewish homeland.

With his unique combination of charm, ‘chutzpa’ and deep conviction, he became a clarion voice for Israel and one of the most important and influential American Zionists of our time.

What he did for New York and Israel, was way beyond the confines of an office.  Ed Koch never let us down. Never.

Our quintessential Mayor literally “bled for the Jewish state” when he was lightly hit in the head by a rock, during his 1990 trip to Israel at the time of the First Intifada.

It made headlines, but the real story is what followed, when he joked to the man next to him that ‘the stone was meant for you.’  Standing next to Ed at that time was Jerusalem’s mythological mayor Teddy Kollek. The two had become lifelong friends, with Ed Koch calling Kollek “the mayor of all mayors.”

Mayor Koch might have gotten a little more than he bargained for but, it was his warm heart, not his battle scars that defined his relationship with Israel.

The bond that Ed shared with Teddy, between two mayors, two leaders, is the one New York and Jerusalem share. It is what Israel and the United States share.

In addition to his contribution in the political arena, Ed served as an important role model, and source of inspiration, to many mayors and community leaders all over the world.

He took an active role in shaping the image of New York, leaving behind him a distinct legacy for the advancement and promotion of the performance and image of the City.

“Koch,” his name used as a term of endearment, was a major catalyst in what later became known as the “branding of New York” as the capital of the free world, as an eclectic urban fascination for the entire world to celebrate and experience.

During his tenure, as well as during his post City Hall years, he was an icon and a champion in turning the “Big Apple” into the strongest brand name in modern urban history.

When I first came to New York as Consul in the year 2001, it was the post-Koch era, but that didn’t stop Ed from continuing to be an accessible and valuable resource to us all, Israeli diplomats as well as leaders in the Jewish community.

He would often call to discuss issues in the news, wanting to get the facts straight, and always curious and eager to know more.

Ed Koch was one of a kind and a true friend of Israel. Before he died, he made it known that he wanted his gravestone to be inscribed with the most famous prayer in Judaism: “Shema.” It is a declaration of faith, a pledge of allegiance to one God and to the nation of Israel.

The Shema is said upon arising in the morning and upon going to sleep at night. It is said when praising God and when calling upon Him. It is the first prayer that a Jewish child is taught to say and it is the last words a Jew says prior to death.

The prayer begins with the most sacred of words:”Shema Yisrael,” literally “Hear, O Israel.” Mayor Koch, whether it was your candid outspokenness or your warm friendship, Israel hears you loud and clear.

May your memory be blessed and may your rest be in peace, dear friend.

Baruch Dayan HaEmet


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