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Abba Eban: The Voice of Israel

For almost two generations, Abba Eban was Israel's voice - its messenger to the high and mighty among the nations as well as to the Jewish people all over the world. Since he first appeared at the side of Dr. Chaim Weizmann in the late 1940's during the struggle for Jewish statehood and sovereignty, few people could articulate the Zionist and later the Israeli case with comparable eloquence and conviction.

With his Churchillian prose and almost Shakespearean cadences, his mellifluous phrases and sonorous voice carried for decades a message of hope from a people that could have lost all hope and trust in humanity after the horrors of World War II. As Ambassador to the United States and the UN, and later as Foreign Minister, he represented an Israel with which the world's liberal imagination could identify.

Larger and more powerful nations were envious of so a powerful spokesman, and his speeches became textbook models for statesmen and diplomats in distant lands. His books - which he found time to write despite the hectic demands of diplomacy - were a unique combination of enormous erudition and crystalline clarity. His scholarly training and rhetorical gifts supplemented each other in a rare fashion. Rarely has a small country been represented by a statesman of such world stature: only Thomas Masaryk and Jan Smuts come to mind to compare with him.

He was a true patriot, in the old-fashioned sense of the word: proud of his people, but never ethno-centric; a man of the world, but deeply embedded in Jewish cultural heritage; focused on the plights and tribulations of the Jewish people, but never losing the universal horizon of mankind. In short, he was a modern Jew in the best sense of the word.